Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Saving the Serena Dawn with Heavy Canon

 In the Star Frontiers System, canon says there is no artificial gravity. All deckplans are laid out in stacks of decks where the engines are down. When thrust is applied, the ship has gravity by virtue of thrust. 

Enter the Serena Dawn, the first ship the characters travel on in SF0 - Crash on Volturnus. Crash on Volturnus is a classic module with one canonical flaw. The deckplan requires artificial gravity. 

I used Inkscape to rough up a copy of the map. The light green areas are the bridge, purple are the engines. Early in the mission, the power goes dead, so you can't even say that having the engines pointing downwards out the bottom of this map helps. 

It's a pretty big flaw. Maybe... maybe not. I love the Serena Dawn and I have a simple solution to fix it within canon. 

I roughed out a side view of the ship. 

Obviously, this is just the regular map projected sideways. Even adding details like the higher roof on the storage bay (blue-gray), the computer room (yellowish-brown), projecting the life pod (yellow) and the engines (purple) don't help. 

Or does it? 

What if the Serena Dawn is a Tumbling Pigeon ship? It rotates to create artificial gravity. There is an issue with this. The ship is 38 meters wide by 14 meters tall by 62 meters long. And it's shaped like a brick. 

Buuuuuut. What if this is just one deck. We are told there are observation domes, rec rooms, 1st class and fuel someplace off the map. I didn't extend the map of this deck by enough to show all of this. It also creates a problem where there is no shuttle bay mention and the ship doesn't look aerodynamic enough to land. So how does this help? 

Behold, the whole of the Serena Dawn! 

Oh, that makes a difference! 

The Serena Dawn is a tether ship. In order to have gravity without power or thrust, the whole ship revolves. No power, no problem! So if the engines are on the bottom of each deck, how does it thrust? 

That tether is out of scale. By a lot. The indivual decks pull themselves up the tether to the center point, apply thrust in one direction and as the ship stops thrusting the decks lower themselves down each end of the tether. When they reach the end, they apply thrust sideways at either end to spin for gravity. 

One last problem to fix. How do the characters get off the ship and land on the planet? There are no shuttles and no capacity to land. Except one. Each side of the ship has a stack of decks. When they arrive at the planet, the bottom most deck is released. It's whipped away to the planet by the rotational speed being translated to a straight line by letting go of the tether. The engines point down to give some deceleration, but it would probably use screens to aerobrake. It would be hard on the screens, so I would think they would be one time use. 

The whole deck enters the atmosphere as a unit and serves as a base. Assuming the deck as lander can't get off the planet again, it has the yellow escape pods that can boost the characters back to orbit for pick up. Or an Assault Scout picks them up. Either way, the puzzle of the Serena Dawn has been solved, with heavy canon. 


  1. Replies
    1. Because the scenario says it has gravity with the power and engine off. That doesn't work in Star Frontiers because gravity is provided by thrust.

  2. I remember this system! I must have shined forty pairs of my fathers' shoes, and cleaned his entire box of "Guaranteed Forever" tools to scratch the money to buy a boxed set. I didn't like sci-fi (still don't) but I would swear there was a picture of a woman with a blaster who looked a little like Wilma Deering crossed with Farrah Fawcett. That was Bad-A enough for me.

    My mom bought that thing for me at Bloomingdale's and I sat in her car, windows down and read the entire contents while she was in the hair salon. Because that was completely safe back then, a 10-year-old kid sitting alone in a car in the parking lot with the windows down while his mom smoked B&H cigarettes and hit a brandy alexander in the hair salon!

    I would swear it was a boxed set, two or three books within. Was there something called "Starmist"? I made up a character named Ace Frehley and never touched the box again. It was probably lost in the romance war of the early 1990's . . .

    What an awesome memory.

    1. Sundown on Starmist is one of the modules for Star Frontiers.

  3. Interesting idea, but going by 'canon' there would still be artifical gravity unless the ship was forced to decelerate (due to reverse thrusters, impact with something, etc.). because the laws of physics states an object keeps moving unless countered by an opposite force. I always assumed the deck was one of many in the 'stack' since (as you pointed out) some parts of the ship were not shown. Just something to think about.

    1. Once an object stops thrusting, it's in freefall. Movement without acceleration (or deceleration) is a zero-gravity situation.

  4. KH did not exist at the time, and so that canon had not yet been established. Personally, I think it's easier to say artificial gravity is a new invention, and most ships still use the old designs. Serena Dawn used the new tech to design a ship based on the existence of AG.
    Interesting design workaround, but I would not want to risk landing a deck the way you describe, especially if I were in charge of the company sending it.