The Frontiers of Design

A new shipbuilding system for the STAR FRONTIERS® game.
by Mike Lane
Dragon #74 April 1988
Many STAR FRONTIERS® game players have problems when it comes to designing nonstandard military ships for use with the Knight Hawks board game and, as I can testify, it becomes rather nerve-wracking to be constantly asked “How many laser batteries can I put on this minelayer? Well, then, how many rocket battery salvos can it carry? Well, then. . ." and so on. Over many hours and some calculator thumping, a system that pleased everyone in my gaming group was generated. This system creates starships compatible with (if a little tougher than) those given in the board-game rules. The new ships also have a great variability in weaponry, which can make even a simple assault-scout duel quite interesting. The following sections deal with the shipbuilding formulas and overall system in depth. Tables 1-6 give details on the items discussed below.

Hull points and DCR 
A civilian ship’s Hull Points and DCR (Damage Control Rating) are determined as per the Knight Hawks rule book — i.e., 

Hull Points = Hull Size x 5 
DCR = (Hull Size x 3) + 20

Milistary and Star Law
Hull Points = Hull Size x 10 
DCR = (Hull Size x 9) + 20

Military and Star Law ships multiply hull size by 10 to determine hull points and by 9 to determine DCR. The greater values generated show the toughness and technical superiority of the secret military hardware over the civilian/ militia equipment, and result in fewer attacking ships being vaporized in the “Defensive Fire” phase of combat.

Weaponry and defenses 
All weapons and defenses on a ship are placed according to the amount of space they occupy in cubic meters, as per the statistics on page 61 of the Knight Hawks game rules, rather than using the MHS (Minimum Hull Size) method. The MHS is still used as a measure of how many weapons of one type may be mounted on a certain hull. 

The maximum number of each type of weapon on a ship may not exceed the hullsize rating divided by the MHS of that weapon system. However, any ship with the necessary space may mount any one weapon despite its MHS. (Yes, you can have an assault scout with a laser canon!) 

Defenses are also bought by the cubic meter, though no ship of less than hull size 5 can mount a powered defense screen because of the screen’s heavy energy demands, which require the larger “B” engines. 

The cubic meters of space for each hull size is determined by a decreasing percentage scale, with figures rounded to the nearest useful amount. This effectively reduces the free space on a battleship to about 1.6%, as compared to a fighter’s 97%, which reflects the squeeze on space as life-support systems, crew quarters, storage areas, and so forth expand with ship size and potential patrol duration.

Table 1 Space Available by Hull Size
1 30 20
2 50 30
3 75 40
4 100 50
5 175 90
6 250 125
7 300 150
8 350 175
9 400 200
10 450 225
11 500 250
12 550 275
13 600 300
14 700 350
15 800 400
16 900 450
17 1000 500
18 1100 550
19 1200 600
20 1300 650
  * All spaces given in cubic meters.
Table 2 - Weapon and Space Needed
Weapon Cubic Meters MHS
Laser cannon 40 5
Laser battery 25 3
Proton-beam battery 30 10
Electron-beam battery 30 6
Disruptor cannon 60 12
Assault-rocket launcher 10 1
Assault rocket* 10
Rocket-battery array 40 5
Rocket-battery salvo 10
Torpedo launcher 75 5
Torpedo 20
Mine spreader 60 7
Mines (5 fields) 20
Seeker-missile rack 40 7
Seeker missile 40
Grapples 60 5
* Assault rockets for rearming fighters kept aboard an assault carrier are kept in cargo space. Up to 15 per cargo unit can be carried.

It should be noted that noncombat ships such as freighters, research vessels, liners, and the like have only 40% of the space listed, since their primary functions demand nearly all available space. This is not to say that there could not be smallcapacity, heavily armed liners used to move VIPs; this simply means that such ships would not be self-sufficient and would thus be very rare.

Weapon magazines 
Rather than saying that a certain number of rounds can be kept in a launcher, the cubic-meters system is used to determine the number of rounds carried. Thus, ammunition for assault rockets, rocketbattery arrays, torpedo launchers, mine spreaders, seeker-missile racks, maskingscreen launchers, and ICM launchers are figured on a cubic-meters-per-shot basis, though one round (or one array, or 20 meters of mines) may be kept at no space cost in any launcher except a maskingscreen launcher. This is because a masking-screen charge is larger than the launcher itself.

Space stations 
Space stations come in four main categories: fortresses, fortified stations, armed stations, and unarmed stations. The last title is something of a misnomer, as even the smallest freight station is likely to have a laser battery to discourage piracy. 

Military stations fall in the fortress and fortified-station categories, while megacorporations have only a few fortified stations and many armed ones. ?Free? stations not belonging to any one group or cartel are usually armed, though a few fortified and unarmed stations can be found. Small freight stations, scientific stations, and automated stations are usually unarmed. 

Space-station weaponry and defenses are mounted in exactly the same way as they are on starships, with two differences: No forward firing weaponry may be mounted, and MHS restrictions are ignored with respect to the maximum number of one weapon type mountable. The statistics given on Table 6 refer to a single space-station hull of a given size. It should be remembered that more than one hull may be joined to create megastations, as per page 8 of the Knight Hawks rule book, though such huge stations are prohibitively expensive for all but the military and megacorporations of the largest size.

Miscellaneous items 
Players and GMs will undoubtedly find new things to put on ships. By carefully determining an item?s size, it can easily be integrated into this system. Remember, though, that addition of any item beyond the listed maximums reduces the ADF or MR of the ship by one.