Universal Vehicle Size System for AER

Anonymous's picture
December 28, 2007 - 1:52pm
I want to hear from everyone on this one.

I introduced a universal vehicle size system in my article Starflight in SFman issue #5, and modified in SFman #7. I have presented a more comprehensive version in the 25th Anniversary Edition Rulebook (AER) in Section 6: Transportation. Some like it, while others suggest a decimal system, decimals representing the smaller classes. While I prefer a decimal system myself, it would require several changes, including moving the number of dice rolled up by 10 (adding an extra 0 to the end) for KH sizes. Not only would this require a comprehensive rewrite to accommodate, it would also be foreign in operation, despite just a single digit change. With the frame vs. hull size, the frame sizes look identical to the hull size and the math is calculated exactly the same, granting the frame sizes a more finite scale. All one has to do to battle between the sizes is divide damage from frame size vehicles by 10 rounded down and then multiply the damage from hull size vessels by 10.

Another difference is that the frame size vs. hull size system replaces hull sizes 1 and 2 with the range of size F5-F9 for hull size 1 and F10-F12 for hull size 2 vehicles, which was its purpose to begin with. I'm not sure how this would work for the decimal system.

The reason I created the F sizes was to make up for the fact that the hull sizes 1 and 2 don't allow much variety of weapons or purpose. However, instead of providing a civilian class and a military class to the frame sizes in the Starflight article, I expressed the difference through size alone with the ability to use vehicle armor plating. So I guess the size differences could still be defined in the decimal system through civilian and military construction differences. You just wouldn't have the same freedom to add armor and other features as you would with the frame sizing.

I currently have it showing civilian and military for the frame sizing, so as you can see, it's versatile to be done either way, at least for frame sizes, though I'm not sure how better customization could be acheived with the decimal system, as you would have to use the civilian as the base, and at some point you switch from being able to add armor to having the armor and durabilty of a military ship. Additionally, the KH rules don't seem to allow for turning a civilian ship into a military ship. If I'm mistaken, be sure to let me know how it's done.

jaguar451's picture
December 28, 2007 - 2:33pm
Quick thought while at work, being at least one of the ones who likes the decimal system -- makes spreadsheet design easier if want to have values depending on HS....

Hulls cost $50,000 per HS.
5 HP per HS, except where it don't.... ;-)

Today, can do simple multiply.

Can't with 'H' Sizes.

I'll have to read up on the above some this weekend and hopefully have more comments.

Sargonarhes's picture
December 28, 2007 - 9:47pm
I think the original rules kept the hull sizes simple for ease of building and play. If you start adding in a whole lot of other numbers to the size charts it doesn't make that big of a difference. When playing Jovian Chronicles most fighters are around size 10 to 12, which in SF puts them some where between a HS 1 and 2. Yet their armor only differs by 10 points which isn't much considering how the damage multiplier works. Then Jovian Chronicles is a very math heavy system. I know, I've tried to convert SF to DP9's SilCore rules. HS are easy, making the systems equivalent to SF weapons and thrust not so easy.

How much difference can there be when HS 1 fighter HP 5 gets hit with the same laser battery that HS 1 fighter HP 7 got hit with. Either way the laser battery is still very capable of killing both with 1 hit, and an assualt rocket or rocket battery is even more likely to kill either one. Provided it can land a hit.
In every age, in every place, the deeds of men remain the same.

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
December 28, 2007 - 10:16pm
Fighters are for intercepting and threat elimination. One fighter's armor isn't going to be much better than another fighter's armor, no matter the size difference. However, size and stat differences can allow different fighters to respond differently to different situations. Some fighters are better at high speed maneuvers, other fighters can hold more fire power, and still yet others have special tricks. By having a smaller scale, it is easier to express such differences. Also, a fighter on a mission to destroy a freighter isn't going to waste its assault rockets on other fighters, so careful dogfighting should become necessary.

The smaller size difference, however, does more than cater to fighters. It caters to smaller vehicles in general, allowing more standard structure point determination and defining differences between vehicles and their ability to handle various weapons and other damage and maneuvers. With no set system, vehicle construction becomes cumbersome.

jaguar451's picture
December 28, 2007 - 10:17pm
Why differentiate, IMO: Variety, cost, and how much the thing can carry, depending on the build rules one uses. IMO, at the smaller sizes, there is a huge difference between between the sizes.

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
December 28, 2007 - 10:21pm

Rum Rogue's picture
Rum Rogue
December 29, 2007 - 10:52am
The Warships supplement for the Alternity system had a decent ship construction system.  Im just too lazy to bring it into Star Frontiers.  I think it might be what some of you are looking for.
Time flies when your having rum.

Im a government employee, I dont goof-off. I constructively abuse my time.

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
December 29, 2007 - 11:18am
Unfortunately, I have no Alternity books, and no money to get any. And unless it resembes the Knight Hawks system, I'm most definitely not looking for it. I'm trying to make the existing system apply universally, not trying to create or bring in a totally different system.

jaguar451's picture
December 29, 2007 - 1:13pm
Well, there is the rub -- how much can stay the same while trying to have a consistent system....

IMO, the existing MHS system is rather, um, vague, as it plus Hull Size & Number & type of engines determine:

ADF / MR (Engine Thrust vs MASS
Volume used / available (Meters cubed (M3))
Weapon limitation (Power rating or targeting systems or ???)

FWIW, the rules list M3, but if you look at the actual volume of the ship sizes listed compared to system space requirements, and not actually having a list of available space per HS, not really usable in design. See below for how much space is actually available in a few hull sizes -- a lot of dark matter (aka, not explicitly accounted for), even if you account for all systems listed in the book...

HS M3 Notes
1 31 After AR(3) in a fighter (30 M3), 1 M3 for all other systems -- the person, Life Supprt, Engine, radar, hull, ...
5 17,671 In a Frigate, which uses ~320 M3 for weapons, a LOT of dark matter after system M3 actually added up
12 589,049 With the volume of 30 Frigate, a Light Cruiser doesn't carry THAT much more weapons, so more dark matter
20 4,712,389 That HS:20 freighter carries 20 times the cargo of a HS:1 shuttle. How that for efficent use of space? ;-) Guess gyroscopes, heat sinks, etc, take a LOT of space.

Don't know the right answer to add a more determination....

* Assign MASS to everything, thrust to engines, formula to figure out ADF (and similiar to SS house rules, different engine counts for ships.)
* A formula for 'dark matter' to figure out how much space can actually use for systems?
* Try to use the KH:INT MHS enhancements ('Efficiency Rating' for ships), although it assigns arbitrary efficiencies to ships, so I'd want to come up with something that could be more deterministic in design.)

If there wasn't the Role Play aspects of wanting to actually move about ships, could do away with M3, and only look at MASS for HS determination, which could combine with thust to determine ADF....

Different games build systems (even seemingly simple ones like Full Thrust) seem to account for at least two of these aspects (space, mass, thrust) in their design.

Not that I have the answer on how to move ahead, but I think something could be designed that creates basically similar ships to what is canon, while having more determinism in design.... (if that's a goal -- I like some of the beam weapon enhancements of SS House Rules or KH:Int. Missiles, well, I keep getting scared of how much stuff flying around that needs to be tracked.... Targeting System to limit how much stuff flying about, i support, or ....)

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
December 29, 2007 - 1:37pm
Well, Star Frontiers started out as a rules-heavy reality-based system called Alien Worlds and the last thing I want to do with the AER is turn it back into a rules-heavy system (By the way, I HATE rules-heavy games. If I were looking for reality, I wouldn't be playing a roleplaying game). When the rules gurus at TSR were done with it, it was turned into one of the simplest and lightest, but "wonkiest" games around. I think we can throw out the occassional wonkiness without having to sacrifice the simplicity and without having to completely rewrite the whole system. Like I said, decimals work, but they change the flavor of the system when you have to add an extra "0" to all numbers.

Also, there's something else in the frame size system that I can't remember right now that can only be accomplished with the frame size system. When I remember it, I'll let you all know.

jaguar451's picture
December 29, 2007 - 2:06pm
Well, we'll have to see if we can come up with something meeting all requirements.... Guess I'll write up my person goals of a design system at some point.

Although FWIW, while I also don't want to go overboard, but I don't see a little additional work at design time being a huge deal -- optimize for playtime simplicity, IMO.

As for adding .0 to everthing, well, if no ., assume .0, so don't need to list.... ;-)

EDIT: and FWIW, I'm not saying I think that it needs to be a part of AER -- just something I'd like to see somewhere -- it in houserules wiki or part of a different project or .... Build rules that are deterministic and relatively close to canon ships.....

Rum Rogue's picture
Rum Rogue
December 29, 2007 - 9:14pm
Corjay wrote:
Unfortunately, I have no Alternity books, and no money to get any. And unless it resembles the Knight Hawks system, I'm most definitely not looking for it. I'm trying to make the existing system apply universally, not trying to create or bring in a totally different system.

  Alternity is far away from Star Frontiers.  I am glad that people did conversions for it, but it still didnt feel like SF.  In my opinion, it was also rather rules heavy. The Warships supplement is a free download.

But, I digress from the conversation.  The ship construction system is all based on points.  Your hull size and hull points are the same thing.  Every item you put in the ship had construction points that could not exceed your hull points.  Military ships had more points than civilian ships.  And larger ships had a certain amount of Free points due to sheer size.  It is a rather in depth creation system, but it was alot of fun. 
One aspect that I really enjoyed, was the idea of power requirements.  Your generator could only supply so much energy and batteries could only store so much.  Engines, life support, and defensive/offensive gear all required a certain amount to function.  If you went cheap, you might not have enough energy after a jump to fire weapons for a few turns, or you could fire all weapons and not have enough for maneuvers. 
Time flies when your having rum.

Im a government employee, I dont goof-off. I constructively abuse my time.

Shing's picture
January 4, 2008 - 4:59pm
For the most part, SF rules are designed to be 'quick and dirty' so that individual GMs could expand into what they and the players wanted.  At least this is how I have to look at it since much of it is contradictory or incomplete.

I don't think fighters have much information about them for the simple fact that they are small and have a single purpose (that and you cannot have a boarding party raid one).  Engine, weapon and a seat is all that needs to be explained when you relate it to the function, the average person really doesn't need anything more complex than that for a generic game.  Now if the campaign were to be fighter oriented, then of course people will look for more variation in the types such as performance, weaponry, durability and LCF.  But at the core, does there need to be much change? 

Personally I don't like that fighters carry an assault rocket (AR) tube with three loads and nothing else, makes no sense to me.  So in my world, the AR can be switched out with an auto-cannon (AC), essentially a multi-barreled slug throwing cannon (think current mini-gun).  Player discussion led to the fighter having the AC (for anti-fighter and 'light' work) and one AR for ship attacks.  This lead to my game environment having three fighters, the "bomber" (3 AR), the "interceptor" (AC) and the "heavy fighter" (AC and 1 AR).

This is about as complex as I like to get as anything else to me takes the focus away from the story and puts it into the toys.  But again, it is up to the GM and players on how they want things to run I just like the simple side of the game to keep things flowing. 

To return to your rules additions, very in depth and well thought out.  Definitely would add a lot to a campaign that was looking for this level of detail.  After reading the two concepts, I would be more inclined to use the decimal system as it fits better with the feel of the game.  You are not really adding more (whole new rating system with F sizes), but breaking the current ones down into more specific boundaries.  In my mind, incremental fits within systems better than new concepts even though they are more or less the same.
"I reject your reality and substitute my own."

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
January 4, 2008 - 6:34pm
Okay, it's looking like decimals are preferred, so I'll go that direction. I just hope it gets used.

Sargonarhes's picture
January 5, 2008 - 8:22am
You have a similar way of looking at it as I did Shing, only I didn't mount an auto-cannon on fighters for reasons of range. A laser pod made more sense to me, or a rocket pod with smaller multiple warheads for fighter combat. The AR are left on for bombing runs, much like WWII torpedo bombers.

If you were going to make a fighter centered campaign, maybe specific skill abilities are in order. A skilled pilot should be able to use abilities like jinking, rolls and other manuvers to avoid from taking damage. Logically the contruction of the craft should also be a factor, logically you can't run a frigate through a manuver like a fighter can. But there should be ways for fighters to try and avoid a ships targeting lasers, either through manuvers or some ECM tricks.

I remember the original rules allows for fighters and assault scouts to try and dodge rockets, torpedos and missiles. Why can't they have manuvers that make them harder to hit with laser batterys as well? Other wise a fighter group attack on a well escorted battleship can end up wipeing that fighter group out to the last ship. There was a reason WWII sounded the death bell for the battleship and made the carrier king of the sea, for space it shouldn't be any different.

Maybe a penalty for batteries to hit fighters unless specifically made for anti-aircraft use.
In every age, in every place, the deeds of men remain the same.

Shing's picture
January 5, 2008 - 12:03pm
I thought of a mini-laser or a "pocket" laser as well but settled on the mini-gun since it was more for fighters than large ships.  You could always add a rocket pod that was smaller scale, again mainly for fighters but in the end I decided that it would change too much. 

The MHS for a laser battery is 3 and by definition it is a "cluster of very small laser cannons" (UPF TOM) controlled by one operator.  In theory you could simply take one of these out and place it on a smaller ship if just looking at the basic math because they don't really specify the size for each or how many are in a cluster.  Reduce the damage to 1/3 (from 1d10), say 1d4, 1d4-1 or 1d6/2 with the same rate of fire (once on your turn and once on your opponents turn) and you are good to go.

I chose the auto-cannon simply because there is no ship equivalent to an auto-pistol/rifle and the weapons seem to parallel one another (if loosely):

Laser Pistol/Rifle = Laser Battery
Heavy Laser = Laser Cannon
Gyrojet Pistol/Rifle = Assault Rocket
Needler Pistol/Rifle = Rocket Battery
Rocket Launcher = Torpedo
Sonic Weapons = Beam Battery/Cannon

So I went with the missing projectile weapons parallel, again keeping it simple (at least in my mind).

(Don't mean to hijack the thread)

"I reject your reality and substitute my own."

Anonymous's picture
Corjay (not verified)
January 5, 2008 - 12:15pm
Sargonarhes wrote:
If you were going to make a fighter centered campaign, maybe specific skill abilities are in order. A skilled pilot should be able to use abilities like jinking, rolls and other manuvers to avoid from taking damage. Logically the contruction of the craft should also be a factor, logically you can't run a frigate through a manuver like a fighter can. But there should be ways for fighters to try and avoid a ships targeting lasers, either through manuvers or some ECM tricks.
I think you might be interested in my next article in the SFman #8 affecting piloting and weapons skills (but not rewriting them).

Sargonarhes's picture
January 6, 2008 - 2:37pm
That's good news to hear, when playing the Robotech RPG PCs would dive their fighters at ships and strafe the hull. Only their missile were doing any real damage, and their fighters had manuvers that made them harder to hit. Granted if the ship is filling the sky with fire from lasers and projectiles something will get hit.

I see Shing, auto-cannons as the starship equivanents to auto-rifles. What I've just thought of, seeing as some other games allow for rapid fire railcannons. Would it be possible to make an electromagnetic auto-cannons to mount on a fighter for SF? That would certainly take care of much of the slower velocities of projectiles compared to rockets and lasers at space hex distances.

The R. Talsorian game Mekton gave a travel time rating for projectiles and missiles, for games allowing for firing at those ranges. This resulted in auto-cannons limited to short range attacks as missiles and lasers worked better for mid to long range attacks.
In every age, in every place, the deeds of men remain the same.

CleanCutRogue's picture
January 10, 2008 - 8:24am

I used autocannon in my teen years too, Shing!  In fact, my starships didn't use KH at all (I was too poor to buy it back then).  I only had AD.  So my ships had all the weapons and defenses of a character, just upgraded to starship level.

Laser Pistol - Laser Turret
Laser Rifle - Laser Cannon
Heavy Laser - Heavy Laser Cannon
Auto Pistol - Auto Turret
Auto Rifle - Auto Cannon
Machinegun - Heavy Auto Cannon
Gyrojet Pistol - Rocket Turret
Gyrojet Rifle - Rocket Launcher
Recoilless Rifle - Heavy Rocket Launcher
Needler Pistol - Lancer Turret
Needler Rifle - Lancer Cannon

I didn't have Sonic weapons (since I knew as a teen that sound requires atmosphere and won't work in space) so I called Sonic weapon equivalenies simply "Ionizing" instead.  So I had Ionizing Stunners, Ionizing Disruptors, etc.  They "stunned" a vehicle by ionizing the controls/electronics, with sparks dancing along all controls and screwing up computer systems until they self-recover.  I even used character-level defenses:

skeinsuit - Ablative Plating
albedo suit - Chrome Plating
Inertia Screen - Inertia Shields
Albedo Screen - Albedo Shields
Sonic Screen - Ionizing Shields
Gauss Screen - Gauss Shields

These worked the same -- all of 'em did -- as normal character rules.  A Laser Turret could still range from 1 to 10 d10 damage, though this was "ship damage" which was 100 times that of character damage (I had vehicle-scale weapons/defenses too, which were 10 times that of character damage ratings).  Ships had SEU Power Clips too, but they were large battery-like devices that took up space on the ship... and although they too only had 20 units of energy, I called these 20 MSEU, or Mega-SEU.  (Vehicles had 20KSEU clips).  Of course, there were 50 and 100 MSEU equivalencies.

Although this abstracted starships quite a bit, it worked fine and I played for many years this way.  It used a game balance that was already established in the game system at character-scale, and seemed like an obvious technological development path for technology of the Frontier.

Ships themselves were statted out similarly to characters.  If I have the time, I think I'll type up my scaled rules for an article in the Frontiersman.  I have them hand-written on graph paper at home somewhere.

3. We wear sungoggles during the day. Not because the sun affects our vision, but when you're cool like us the sun shines all the time.

-top 11 reasons to be a Yazirian, ShadowShack

Shing's picture
January 10, 2008 - 4:09pm
Sounds pretty good, I like the battery idea, can make for interesting situations if a ship runs out or they get damaged. It all makes sense at any rate, common idea for humans in terms of weapons is to simply make what a person uses bigger and stick on a ship.

Could your Chrome Plating be used to blind pilots by using a star? You probably would have hated having me in your group in the day. ;)
"I reject your reality and substitute my own."