Showing posts with label Star Smuggler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Smuggler. Show all posts

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Copy, Paste, Flip, Cut... The Countdown is On

If you look over to the right, you'll see the countdown is on. We are set to return home by mid-April. 54 days. That means a lot of things. 

Due to the time of year, everyone here is hauling ass. Nate and Cat have the school play the first week of March. Weddings are in full swing, so they are doing double duty with practice and work at the banquet hall. My older son is off with the Air Force Reserves, in and out of the house as duty dictates. My wife and I are starting new jobs. 

Things are getting real. 

The biggest change is that we won't have time to game much at all. Rather than go on hiatus, I will still have time to do some reviews. I also want to show off some cool stuff I have received from people who reached out after the fire. I should have time to post every week or two. 

Before I check out for a bit, I wanted to show off something I put together today. I love the game Star Smuggler, a solo game created in the 80s. It's like Traveller Super Lite. You can download and print it from Dwarfstar Games

One thing that always bothered me about the set is that the tiles used for the planets forced the player to invert one tile or another to create the necessary planets. Last night, I decided to correct that by flipping every tile with Gimp. This afternoon, I printed them out and pasted them on cardboard. 

It took forever. You see, the problem was each tile has text and numbers which are backward if you merely flip them. I went in flipped the words the right way around. 

It wasn't until I had the whole set printed and mounted on cardboard that I realized the high production value of the artwork included with this game. Everything lines up correctly. 

When you look at two A tiles side by side, the available paths line up because they are mirrored. And the continents look like a Rorschach test. But that is not how they are supposed to be used. 

You're supposed to match up left and right tiles according to the rules. For example, the Planet Regari uses tiles K and J while Palatek uses A and C. 

Not only do those match, every tile matches. That's brilliant! Tom Maxwell, who did the art for the tiles was a genius. I love it. 

Given that I won't have much time on my hands in the next 50+ days, my gameplay will be limited to solo games like this one. Physical tiles make it so much easier. 

Thank you, everyone, for everything. I will be around but probably not as much as I'd like. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Right Name, Wrong Game

I've written hundreds of posts about Star Smuggler. One thing I glossed over is the combat system for spaceships. I was hoping that you, the reader would download it and try it for yourself. It really is an ingenious system. 

And not entirely appropriate for this game. As the title of the posts says, right name, wrong game. There is a flaw in this system which could be a typo or perhaps something intentional. 

I have mentioned several times that this game seems to have some aspects of Traveller, a very simplified version of Traveller. In some respects that is true. The plots, the technology types, even the Antelope starship itself. But that is where the similarities end. 

In studying this game, I have come to the conclusion that it might have been a stand alone game used by the author for a science fiction setting. Some sort of super campaign. 

One of the hints at this possibility is the combat system. It is really designed well for ship to ship combat where smuggling and piracy are critical.   

The game system has tech levels, from 1 to 6. For spaceship combat, you are able to roll one die for each tech level of the ship's guns. For tech level 6, you can roll a maximum of six dice. 

Roll a 1 or 2 and you have hit. 
Simple, eh? 

Well, yes. There there are the other modifiers and statistics that come into play. If you are shooting at a stationary target, you can roll up to 7 dice. Theoretically, that should allow you to hit at least twice, maybe three times. 

The vast majority of ships in the game absorb 10 hits of damage. With the stock Antelope with the tech level 1 guns, you need to go through 10 lucky combat rounds to destroy another ship. 

However with upgraded guns the modifiers come into play. If you roll two 1's or two 2's, you do a critical plus one hit for each pair 1's or 2's. A critical will damage the radios, the engines, shields, life support, ECM or breech a compartment killing everyone inside. There are six compartment areas. 

On a roll of a 1 and 2, you do two criticals plus hits. 
This random roll of seven dice from shows the problem. 

This is three hits tech level 6 guns against a stationary ship. But how many criticals? I don't know, which is why I suspect there is a flaw in the rules. 

My personal interpretation is that it is 3 hits plus 2 criticals. The first one and two are combined for the first two hits and the first two criticals. Then the second two is the next hit. If the order had been different, this would have been one critical and three hits. 

There is a third possibility. Perhaps the author intended the player to roll one die at a time so they get a sequence of numbers that can be evaluated in order. 

The upshot of this is, if you rolled a just the first 3 dice, that would be two hits and two criticals. Now when combined with the critical table, a ship can experience hull breaches which kill the crew and disable that area. 

This particular sequence of rolls, 3, 2, 1, 6, 6, 2 would result in 2 criticals, two hits and breach of the cargo hold and destroy the ECM system, if any. 

Repeat that a couple of times and you are on your way to disabling a ship. In the next sequence, I rolled 1, 3, 1, which is another two hits and critical. The critical took out the engines, which gives my next roll an extra die. 
Two more criticals. One took out life support and the other took out the crew quarters. The enemy can still shoot back, but they can't move and can only take two more hits. Anyone not in a suit is dead. 

It sounds like boarding time to me.

The problem with this is scenario is, this can give the player the opportunity to board and take a ship by wiping out the whole crew. That cannot be intentional, at least for Star Smuggler. Having two ships is very game breaking as I have proved a couple of times. 

The author seemed to realize this. Anytime there is a programed space combat event, the enemy ship will surrender at 8 hits and two to go. They rig the ship to explode if you try to take it. So you can plunder but not capture. However, there are random combat events that don't have this rule in play.  

As a homebrewed game about pirates and smugglers, it rocks! 

Friday, December 11, 2020

You can't buy that!

Alright, I hope you noticed all of my ads the past couple of days. They help support this site. However, they aren't the main reason for the site. Gaming is the reason. 

To that end, lets promote a couple of games you can't buy at any price. Enter Dwarfstar Games. In coordination with Reaper Minis, they brought several games back from the dead. These games aren't abandoned or even in the public domain, but the people behind Dwarfstar have brought back 7 tiny games publish by companies like Heritage in the 80s. You can download them directly from that website above or click the names below.  

The first is Barbarian Prince. I am using Dwarfstar's description copy here: 

"BARBARIAN PRINCE is a solitaire game of heroic adventure in a forgotten age of barbarism and sorcery. No opponent is necessary as the Event Booklet takes you through a pre-programmed sequence of encounters which is different each time you play the game. For each event, you, as the Barbarian Prince Cal Arath, must make the decisions which will make your quest successful -- or may cost you your life.

"BARBARIAN PRINCE is a new concept in Adventure Gaming. No rules reading is required; the programmed event sequence lets you begin play as soon as you open the box.

"BARBARIAN PRINCE contains -- A full-color 12"x 14" mapboard, a die, rules folder, Event Booklet, and summary sheet -- and a detailed cast metal figure of the Barbarian Prince to mark your position on the board."

I played a few round in my Pilot Podcast Episode

The next game, Demonlord is equally interesting: 

"DEMONLORD is a game of strategy for two players. It vividly recreates the grand sweep of empires in conflict in an age of sorcery and enchantment. Infantry and cavalry sweep across the land to meet in battle or besiege fortresses, as winged troops wheel overhead. Priests invoke friendly spirits, as magicians prepare potent battlefield magic, or summon great beasts to their aid. And controlling it all, the dread Demonlord, and the Captains of the Hosar alliance with their retinue of personalities and special powers.

"DEMONLORD contains -- a full color card stock mapboard, 12"x14"; 154 full color counters; a die; instruction folder.

"PLAY LEVEL - Intermediate/Advanced"

I can't wait to play this one. 

I seem to recall having Goblin back in the day, but I must have lost it. No worries, you can still download it for free. 

"GOBLIN is a fantasy game of raiding and plunder for two players. Each player takes a turn at playing the Goblin King, leading raiders into the peaceful valley, pillaging and burning. The other player maneuvers the farmers and the Baron's troops in a desperate attempt to stave off the raids. The player who amasses the greatest amount of plunder as Goblin King, before being killed in battle or deposed by his own goblins, is the winner. Goblin is a light-hearted, free-wheeling game with surprisingly subtle strategy.

"GOBLIN contains -- a full-color 12"x14" mapboard, 154 full-color counters, a gaming die, and complete instruction book."

Next up is Grav Armor, another game I had in a baggie. I seem to recall picking it up from Kaybee Toys on close out. 

"GRAV ARMOR is a fast-moving game of future armored warfare for 2 players. It realistically simulates the high-speed, high casualty combat between streaking gravitic vehicles, surface-effects craft, supersonic fighters, orbital dropships and power-suited infantry. The modular map sections allow scenarios to be played on radically different types of planets (earthlike, molten, frozen or airless).

"GRAV ARMOR contains -- Six 4"x7" full-color map modules, 154 full-color counters, two dice, and complete rules booklet with 5 scenarios.

"PLAY LEVEL - Introductory/Intermediate"

My friend Scott R. had OUTPOST GAMMA. He was also the person who introduced me to Traveller. I've never recovered, but I still love these sorts of games. The art work reminds me of the stuff done for Dark Tower

"OUTPOST GAMMA is a game of science fiction combat for two players. With its unpredictable storms and fast-playing combat system, OUTPOST GAMMA captures the tension and rapid-fire action of high versus low-technology combat in a hostile environment.

"OUTPOST GAMMA contains -- a full-color 12"x 14" mapboard, 154 full-color counters, a die, and rules booklet.

"GAME LEVEL - Introductory/Intermediate"

My personal favorite is Star Smuggler. I've posted hundreds of times on it. You can check out my two series on it here and here

STAR SMUGGLER is a solitaire game of tense adventure in the far future. No opponent is necessary, as the Event Booklet takes you through a pre-programmed sequence of encounters which is different each time you play the game. For each event, you, as star smuggler Duke Springer must make the decisions which will make you huge profits -- or may cost you your life.

STAR SMUGGLER contains -- Twelve 4"x3" full-color mapboard tiles, four full-color counters, a rules booklet, events booklet and gaming dice.

I've put hundreds if not thousands of hours into this. It's like Traveller Lite. I've also played it as a multi-player game. The rules are pretty solid. 

And last but not least is Star Viking. This has little to do with the book Space Viking or Traveller, but somehow these three works are tied together with callout and callbacks. I had a blast playing it with my kids. My review is right here

"STAR VIKING is a game of interstellar raiding and plunder for two players. Using a unique system of 12 mapboard tiles to represent the various star systems in the Outrim sector, it captures the tense uncertainty and the sudden, flashing battles of an interstellar war. Units represented include Viking cruisers, sloops, and fighters. Federate and local frigates, battle-cruisers, and patrol boats, as well as raiding detachments, security forces, grav-armor units, specialized warfare pods, and conventional low-tech armed forces ranging from atmospheric aircraft to stone-age hordes.

"STAR VIKING contains -- Twelve 3�"x4" full-color cardboard playing tiles, 154 full-color counters, a die, and a complete instruction folder.

"PLAY LEVEL - Intermediate."

Remember, you can't buy these from Dwarfstar, but don't hesitate to download them. Be kind and don't abuse their terms. They are more than generous. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 008 Repeating the Motion - Mission Summary One

The crews of the Zephyr and Sirocco are fully fueled and ready to go. They have 76,253 to spend. 

In this post, I'll be trying the Regari to Palatek run again to see if more resources can make this work. 

This event is offered via e192. The stated rules are you can buy hand carved items for a base price of 5 CU on Regari and sell them on Palatek for 10. On Palatek, you can buy electronics for 60 and sell on Regari for 100, base prices. Base prices are modified by a die roll. On Regari, it's impossible to buy or sell for greater than 1 1/2 times base price. Palatek could have prices up to triple the normal cost. 

There are some unstated restrictions here. First, each drop off/pick up takes "the rest of the day". Second, boosting into orbit to get to the jump point takes 4 hours. Jumping burns 1 hypercharge. Landing requires 2 entry rolls which could be either dangerous or cost time. You are also limited by funds available and if those are fine, how much space you have on board for cargo. The items are 1 CU and have no special restrictions on storage, so you could pack every available space with them. 

The Sorocco and the Zephyr have a total of 150 CU of storage in their combined cargo bays. Being two ships, each jump will burn 2 hypercharges. 

The crew loads up the 150 CU worth of carvings at a price of 750 secs. This takes all day. They get to Palatek and roll for entry. They get result e103, which describes finding a 4 CU status pod. There is plenty of room, so they bring it onboard. They manage to avoid detection landing and off load the goods. They make 3000 from the carvings. They take on 150 CU of electronics for 9000 secs. They have burned a second day. 

On the return trip to Regari, they get through both checks without being detected. On landing, they sell the electronics for 15,000. This ends a third day. 

They move over to the spaceport and refuel at a cost of 2000 secs (500 times 2 times charges, times two ships).

At this point, I will sanity check the numbers. They had 76,253. In the plus column they have 15,000 and 3,000 and in the loss column they have 2,000, 9,000 and 750. Additionally, that have used 4 days and have a 4 CU stasis pod with unknown contents. They made 6250. 

On the surface, they 2.5 times the normal cargo space and far more money than a typical player would have. Under normal play conditions, the player would have to make 10 runs to make this much money. It is possible to get lucky and have nothing slow you down, but it would take a minimum of 11 days because they would have to take on hypercharges at least once. 

Entry rolls are a key factor. At Regari, there are 4 rolls that do not effect you while there are two that lead down paths that can kill you outright and one more that ends the game in a single die roll or choice. At Palatek, there are three entry events that have no effect, two that could end in either all day events or combat which would probably end the game and a 6th event that has 3 bad endings, two neutral and a sixth that could end the game in a win condition after a lot of time and investment of energy. 

The rolls when entering areas are far less dangerous, you could by pass them by making a good roll.  On these two planets, there are 5 events which are more flavoring than anything else, while a sixth path leads to two slightly dangerous or annoying events and one event that is usually positive. There is event an event that allows you bribe your way into an area, trading money for time and safety. 

Spitballing things, if you run this mission 11 times you'll average about 568 secs per run. However due to the low prices of the carvings, the player would have to complete a full cycle to see this level of reward. Early in the game, the player will be more conservative that this and may fail to pick up on all the nuances of the mission. 

Since my team doesn't have a clock ticking, I can investigate many of the mini-missions in the game to see what pays off most. 

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 007a All Over But for the Accounting

We left on at the end of Day 5. On Day 6, the ship is repaired and ready to go. As mentioned before, they want to get back to doing something easier. That cargo run from Palatek to Regari sounds nice. Anything that doesn't involve shooting sounds nice. 

But they have one thing little thing that they can do on Mynkuria, pay off the ship. For a while there, I was tracking the ship's account and 9 different character's funds. That ain't fun, so it ends here. The ship's account is at 292,183 while the characters have an additional 8,820. After paying the ship off, they have 111,003 left. I am just keeping one pool of funds. 

The gang decides to run back to Palatek, via Nipna, Talitar and Imperia. They have no intention of landing anyplace except Palatek Prime, so the trip could take as little as a day. Depending on the dice gods, that is. Infi! 

At Nipna, they roll a 2 for their entry roll. They land in the middle of space battle and jump again before anything bad happens. At Talitar, they get a 3 which means they go undetected. At Imperia, they roll a 1 and drift by a broken down ship. Oddly, they have no chance to interact with it. For Palatek, they score a 3 which gives them a chance to attack a merchant ship with 12 hits. No deal. 

They land on the planet with two hours of daylight. They land at the city uneventfully. It's time to do the gear mamba to make space in the cargo hold. 

They have two hoppers which can hold 20 CU including passengers (it's odd, but the hopper boat guns are bigger than the ship guns). On each hopper, they leave five seats open for crew. They divide the fuel units 8 per hopper. One fuel unit is in the vacuum skimmer. They place 7 life support units in each hopper and one in the skimmer. 

In the cargo bay, they have 9 repair units and a skimmer (10 CU) leaving 41 CU of space for stuff. The remaining u-suits (4 in all), side arms and heavy side arms are scattered in the crew quarters. Since the crew space is 32 CU in all and I only have 9 crew plus their gear, I'll place the repair units there, too. Odd, but efficient. There is now 50 CU in the cargo bay. 

They buy 50 CU of electronics and get ready to go. That costs 3000 secs. They now have 108,003. That ends Day 6. 

On Day 7, they boost for orbit which takes 4 hours to reach the jump point. On arrival, they are ignored and land on the surface at the colony to off load the electronics for a base price of 100. They make 5,000 secs. and buy 50 CU of carvings for 250. 

Day 8 starts by moving the ship to the spaceport. They are out of hypercharges and need to "reload". They make the deal in one hour, but the loading process takes all day. They are down 3000 secs. 

Day 9, they boost for orbit and jump to Palatek. On landing, they offload their goods and take on the next load of electronics. They take in 1500, but end up spending 6000. 

Back to Regari. They get 5000 for the transaction. 

Emily points out that after 3 runs, they only have 110,253. They only made 2,250 but they are also down 1000 secs in fuel costs. This isn't working for them. 1250 of profits would make a starting player, they could pay their 300 interest payment, hire some crew and upgrade equipment fairly quickly, but it would be labor intensive. 

Time for a new plan for a new week. They buy a full load of Gm-bots at the space station plus two hypercharges. It sets them back 6000+1000. And they are off to Imperia. 

On arrival, they get slugged with a meteor in the engineer compartment. Mel and Sarah do their thing and get the ship repaired. Tired and bored and terrified, they call it a day. 

Day two is better. They land at the spaceport with no problem. Their entry roll indicates a roll on the regular spaceport table which is great. They get e037 - Sell GM-Bots and roll a 6 for their multiplier. They just made 100,000 secs. in one run. They have 203,253. 

Emily says, "Gee, we need to go back to Regari." 

The crew cries, "Why on Earth would we do that?"

"We need to buy a ship..." 

Their new ship cost 120,000 secs. Its TL-1, it doesn't have a hopper or guns. They only have one hypercharge, so they outfit both ships with a full load of six. That costs an additional 4000 secs. They have 79,253 left over. 

They spend the rest the week appointing their new ship. They outfit it with a set of Tl-5 guns from the Zephyr and one of the hoppers. They replace the guns on the Zephyr with TL-6 guns. This means the Zypher has 90 CU of storage while the other ship has 60. That sets them back another 3,000. 

They name it the Sirocco. They are joyriding around an empty spaceport lot trying to figure out who's gonna driver her. 

I'll probably rework this design to have guns. I can live with 2 30 CU bays instead of one large 60 CU bay. I like the look of this ship. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 007a Smuggler's Blues

The crew has a plan. They have 2 CU of Dyna-weed that they need to unload quickly. They have a full load of hypercharges on Imperia, so they can reach any system in the sector. 

This exercise is more than looking at the map. It's about knowing the territory. 

There are 10 planetary systems with 15 planets. Of those 15 planets there are only 6 slums to sell this Dyna-weed. On top of this, each system has a wealth code which creates a ranking of which planets are best to visit. In order of wealth, the planets are: 
  1. Imperia,
  2. Byzantium, 
  3. Mynkuria, 
  4. Uruskop, 
  5. Talitar, 
  6. and Regari. 
A couple of these are contiguous systems, but most are widely separated. The crew has chosen the following flight plan: 
  1. Byzantium (48,000 on the sale) 
  2. Imperia, (160,000 on the sale)
  3. Uruskop, (Next planet)
  4. and Mynkuria (Last planet)
What is cool about Star Smuggler is, the reader is building a story outside of what is written in the events and rules. In this example, Mynkuria will be the last planet visited which will complete the weed smuggler's arc. This circles back to all the problems with Mynkuria Death Squads the party experienced back on Nipna. They are being forced to either reduce their profits or run headlong in the planetary system that has caused them the most pain. 

To get to Uruskop, they need to make a jump series from Imperia to Uruskop. This is totally event-less and takes a day. They make 32,000 secs. on the deal. Although event are ordered randomly by die rolls, the dice do not fail to bring the excitement or build story arcs. 

When the Zephyr jumps into Mynkuria space, the fight is on. They roll e095 which is an attack by a Mynkuria cruiser. The cruiser has 10 hits and TL-6 guns. 

One thing that is lacking is a consistent way to capture ships. In some events, the text indicates that the crew will surrender when their ship is down to one hit. In order to prevent the player from permanently capturing the ships they defeat, the surrendering ship threatens to self destruct. In other cases, like e095, there are no surrender conditions. I'll run this scenario out to show the difficulty in capturing a ship. 

The first round of combat takes place by surprise. Each round of combat in space takes an hour, except for surprise attacks. The attackers used an hour to attack, but the reader or player is experiencing the results that hour of action by surprise. They don't record that hour because they weren't aware of the other ship activities. 

The Zephyr has defensive screens, but due to the energy constrains cannot run with them on all the time. The Mynkurian cruiser blasts them with a series of rolls. 2, 2, 2 are all hits that would have been blocked with the screens. But the crew of the Zephyr didn't have time to turn them on. The score is 10 hits to 12 and we are counting down. 

In the first non-surprise round, the Zephyr raises its screens while the Mynkurian cruiser fires again. The Zephyr takes two more hits, 1 and 1 rolls which also indicates a crucial hit. The Zephyr's comms breakdown. They can no longer call for help or communicate with the hoppers. 

The Zephyr makes a risky hopper launch and the three ships fire back. The results are 2 and 2, a one, a one, and a 1, 2, and 2. Since no one ship scored a pair of ones in their attack, no criticals have been done to the Mynkurian this time. The score is now 10 to 3 hits left, still counting down. 

In the second round, the Mynkurian fires again (they have better guns) and scores no damage thank's to the Zephyr's screens absorbing all of those 2 rolls. Not every gun gets a chance to hit the Mynkurian ship. In one shot, they get a critical hit on the Mynkurian's turret doing two points of damage to the ship, knocking out the gun and killing the gunner plus one more point of damage to the ship. 

There is nothing left but an expanding ball of vapor. 

This shows how deadly combat is and hard it is to knock out a ship with damage via the rules. I've played enough to know that you can do with a critical to pilotage or engineering, but otherwise it is very hard to stop short of total destruction. In fact, the chances of knocking a ship down to just one hit is pretty unlikely. There is a tendency to simply overkill a ship. 

Anyway, back to the problems on the Zephyr. Destruction of the Mynkurian's ship does not make the crew wanted thankfully. The hoppers are recovered and the crew decides to enter the Mynkurian Slums to make their sale, another 48,000. Next, they move on to the spaceport. 

These series of moves were risky. They have two encounters in a heavily damaged ship which could have been two more combats. Luckily, they were sales opportunities which didn't have any effect. They do have a couple of hours to make some rolls, again, none of which have any effect. They don't need what was offered. 

The Mel and Sarah need to patch up the ship which will take 3 days. The crew could sweat out these days in RRR or they could try to replace their hypercharges. Replacing the hypercharges is less risky, but they are on the lookout for those Mynkurian Death Squads. 

The crew gets the required charges on the second day of repair, paying 1500 for the hyper-fuel. It's critical that the crew makes all of those repairs as a jump with a damaged ship can cause a catastrophic failure and kill everyone. A fully repaired and properly maintained ship does not suffer this roll, so it's kind of important. 

This ends day 5 of the week. The crew is counting it's money. They are sitting on 292,183 which is far more than the cost of the Zephyr. 

Resources remaining: 

2 Hoppers TL-1 (TL-6 guns), 17 fuel units, 2 GM-bots at TL-5, 1 vacuum skimmer TL-5 (e153), 3 TL-1 u-suits, 1 TL-6 u-suit, Regen Tank TL-6 (e153), Defense Screens, 4 TL-5 heavy side arms, 4 TL-4 side arms, 9 repair units and 18 life support units. 

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 006 Smugglers!

Since this will be a hell week, let's recap what resources the ship has and where. 

The ship's account has 8358 secs. In cargo they have: 

2 Hoppers TL-1 (TL-6 guns), 19 fuel units, 2 GM-bots at TL-5, 1 vacuum skimmer TL-5 (e153), 3 TL-1 u-suits, 1 TL-6 u-suit, Regen Tank TL-6 (e153), Defense Screens, 4 TL-5 heavy side arms, 4 TL-4 side arms and 20 life support units. 

The ship also has 4 point of damage from the space battle they fought. The engineers are screaming for resources, so they drop in to the space station. That takes a couple hours and the crew searches for repair units. The engineers insist on 20 repair units, which costs the ship's account 200 secs. They now have 8158 left. 

The next two days are spent doing repairs. I decided Mel and Sarah can each repair a point of damage per day. The rules don't say you can do this, but they don't preclude it either. 

It's now day 4 and the crew decides to leave for Palatek. It takes 3 hours to get to a safe jump point. 

The entry roll indicates they find a status unit floating in space (e103). They take it on board and make their way to the planet. Since they will be hauling cargo, they want to open the status unit and get it out of the way. This means they want to go to the space station for a 5 CU status unit. 

About the odds. You can buy status units at the spaceport on a roll of 2. There is exactly one way to roll that, or 2.78%. At the space station, stasis units are available on 9. There are many ways to roll a nine, 4 to be exact and that is 11.11% chance or four times as often. On the station, you only get 5 rolls per day but that's half the rolls at four times the chance. 

It takes them 2 days worth of rolls to succeed. 500 secs spent (7658 left).

It was more than worth the effort. They find 4 CU of Dyla-Weed. It has a base price of 16,000 secs in any slum. The downside is, they can only sell one per slum per planet. They'll be rich, if they are willing to deal with the illegal stuff. 

To make this choice, I make each character roll against their cunning. Emily, the medic Drey and Jason want to put it out the airlock, but the rest of the crew pleads with them to keep it. There is a lot of grumbling, but they come around. 

For once, these guys are actual smugglers. 

Day 7, they come up with a plan. They will go to Byzantium then Imperia to make the sales and refuel the hypercharges. 

You know, this won't go smoothly. They make the sale at Byzantium, pocketing 48,000 secs. On the very next jump to Imperia, the ship runs into an meteor which blows a hole in the boat bay and one of the boats. The engineers weep. 

As the crew sets down on the planet, the engineers start repairs while the rest of the crew makes the sale. They make another 160,000 secs. They have also used 2 more repair units, leaving only 14. They also have to refuel the ship which takes another day. 

Since the crew is doing something illegal, they quietly make a payment and tell Duke they are doing cargo runs. Because smugglers never do anything illegal. The ship's account is now at 213,683. None of the crew accept payment at this time because they are trying to hide the fact that they are drug runners. 

Technically, the crew is in a win condition. But I want to see how usable this system is a general RPG, so we'll continue again next week. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Antelope Variants - Casual Deckplans

 Before coming up with the Zephyr variant for Star Smuggler, I tried a couple designs. These rules are somewhat related to Traveller, Snapshot or Striker as they darn near follow the design principals. Where as these games have tons of fuel to jump, Star Smuggler has a magic McGuffin called a Hypercharge. Ships are limited in range by the six charges they carry. 

This version is shorter than the Zephyr type and has half as much crew space. The bays are arranged differently, giving 4 40 CU bays. I would think it would make a nice causal carrier or carrier escort ship. That block of cargo space could also be a barracks or brig. 
Since I was already going small, this one is even smaller, eliminating the medical area, the weapons vault and both guns. It seems to be a pure hauler. It's bays are also divided into 3 40 CU sections. 
This version is a single gunned hauler. It's huge, those areas near the rear could be more storage space. 
I am not sure where I was going with this design. The center cargo bay has been given over to some sort of controls. Perhaps it is a lab, an advanced scanner station or controls to direct other ships. It has a single turret and a medical bay. The back of the ship has some odd equipment fittings for unknown purposes. 

This is the largest Zephyr type ship, with 4 bays, the massive crew space, vaults and medical. 

And of course for comparison is the actual Antelope II named the Zephyr. I probably should have made the rectangular cargo hold 60 CU as it is slightly bigger than the boat bay but smaller than the main cargo hold. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 005b

Ok, this session is part two of Session 005. It starts on the morning of day 10. In my last post, I accidently lost track of one day by not calling it by the number. 

We left the crew docked at the space station, with the intention of leaving for Regari. The crew is most interested in doing something safe like returning to Regari and doing some cargo runs to Palatek. As a game master, this is an unsatisfying development. I decided to throw something interesting at the party. 

On the morning of day 10, there is radio chatter about incoming raiders. Additionally, in the hub of the station, a pair of Mynkurnia death squads appear. The Zephyr wants nothing to do with those exploding suicide troops again, so they detach from the Station and start making for the Spaceport on the surface. 

As they drop into the atmosphere, they get jumped by two TL-6 hoppers, one has TL-6 guns and the other has TL-4 guns. The Zephyr has been surprised and take a pair of hits. 

Wait... I made another mistake. The Antelope II has no hit stats. It's twice as big as an Antelope I but I don't want it to have 20 hits. I give it 15 hits. It also has defensive screens, which will absorb some damage. 

Ok. So the Zephyr takes a beating as it plunges into the atmosphere of the planet. That's one hour of combat. 

In the next turn of combat, they return fire while the crew rushes around to unload the hoppers and make them combat ready. They could simply take off, but the hoppers are holding a ton of equipment. 

The Zephyr has TL-5 guns, while the attackers have TL-6 and TL-4 weapons. These guns lose one die for being hoppers and a second for firing in the atmosphere. I deem that the Zephyr's guns are better because they aren't degraded as much and therefore shoot first. 

My super fancy combat map. 

The hoppers each take two points of damage. But wait! That's not all. The hopper with the TL-6 guns takes a critical, forcing a breakdown roll. It fails and the ship crashes into the ground. The second boat returns fire and hits again. 

The ship is much faster than the hopper so it breaks away and into orbit in hour 3. They fire again on the lone hopper doing two more points of damage. It breaks off and makes for the ruins. 

Hour 5 is getting worse, they see two TL-4 Antelopes with the same type of guns. The Zypher has better guns and unloads on the lead ship for 5 points of damage plus a critical. Life support breaks down. The Zephyr's defensive screens eat up the one point of damage. The hoppers deploy and fire their TL-6 guns on the lead ship. They do four more points of damage, one more hit will kill it. The Raiders are screaming for the damaged hopper to come back and it starts it's climb.

The next round sees the Antelopes pull out of range of the party's hoppers, but they get blasted again by the Zephyr's big guns. The lead ship takes another critical to the engines and goes dead in space. The remaining ship takes a critical, a hit to pilotage. The pilot is killed instantly, stopping the ship dead in space. The guns rip off an ineffective shot. 

Also in this round, the last hopper roars out of the atmosphere and right into the Zephyr's hoppers. It's hit for two points of damage and explodes. 

The Raiders crews had two pilots, two gunners, an engineer and a death squad boarding party. They are trying to affect repairs but everything will take a day. 

In round 7, the hoppers catch up and blast the Raider still capable of shooting. They do two points of damage plus 2 criticals. One critical knocks out life support and a second lucky hit strikes Pilotage, where the engineer was attempting repairs. The Zephyr unloads on the ship for one point of damage and two criticals. These kill the crew in engineering and the turret. 

The Zephyr orders the ships to surrender. They do not. So, the crew moves to the closest ship and begins boarding actions. 

With life support down and heavy hand weapons, combat is over as quick as it started. The second ship manages to damage the Zephyr with two points of explosive damage, but then the rest of the crew goes down. They manage to capture the engineer and a gunner. 

The heroes collect up some weapons and spare change from the dead. The total crew was a pilot, a gunner, a death squad per ship, plus an engineer. The hopper had a pilot and gunner plus half of a death squad each. That nets 288 secs. from both ships' crew. They also collect up an assortment of guns, 4 TL-5 heavy side arms and 4 TL-4 side arms. As per e182, they strip the ships for 1400 secs. in fittings. In this case, Imperial Police take control of the ships from the party and thank them for their help, rather than an explosion destroying both ships. 

This ends the week on an odd note. The fund from fittings from the ships go into the Ship's account and the weapons and crew money is split up amongst the crew. Since the crew has already been paid, they get nothing more than prize money. 

I just purchased some graph paper composition books, which is what I use for note taking and rough gaming information. 

These are exactly what I used to map out all of the Star Smuggler events. 

Pluses and Minuses, Pools and Podcast

In Star Smuggler, characters make to hit rolls. They have to roll over a certain number which is varible with 2 dice. Although the rules do not say it, the character receives one die for skill and one die for the quality of their weapon. The rules establish that if you have no skill with a weapon, you can't make a to hit roll. However, theoretically, if you ignored that rule you could have an unskilled character blasting away with a very, very low probability of hitting. 

For starship and boat weapons, the roll is different. You need to roll 1 or 2 to hit. A pair or more of ones indicates a critical. The player receives a 1d6 per roll based on the tech level of their weapon, up to a maximum of 6d6. 

In other parts of the game, there is a standard roll of 1d6 or 2d6, where the character can have pluses and minuses modify the roll. The roll is usually used to determine what of 6 or 12 things happen next not how good you are doing. The evaluation of "good" or "bad" happens as a result of reading a paragraph or two describing an event. Getting in a fight is supposed to be bad, but if you have large party of characters that idea is flipped on it's head because the player can dominate the battlefield. Getting a cool new item is supposed to be good, but if you don't have room for it, it's useless. 

The D&D player in me only noticed the standard roll of 1d6 or 2d6 with modifiers and could not conceptualize why giving modifiers to weapons fire does not work. I know, I've tried. It's because those rolls are from a dice pool, a concept that is totally foreign to me.  

This is a case of knowing your rule sets and having a great background in games, mechanics and theory helps a lot. I am all about D&D while I find Traveller to be entirely opaque. Traveller fascinates me because I can't figure out how the game master and players use the game mechanics to make great things happen. I've heard of people playing one Traveller campaign for decades, as I have been doing with Star Smuggler. The basic mechanics make that happen. 

In D&D, my campaigns fizzle after a few weeks or months because the characters reach a point where the truly fantastic has to happen over and over each session to make the game go. The rules lose their gritty danger as the characters improve. That's baked right into D&D while Traveller has a totally different mindset where it's not likely that your character will mechanically improve at all. They get better and smarter, but everyone is still one blaster shot away from death. It's the psychological threat level that changes, not the characters abilities. It's all in the scope of the story. 

This is probably the reason why I've been listening to Safco Cast so much. I am sure most listeners are looking to Jeff Koenig and Bob Loftin Traveller experiences, I am listening for their Gaming experience. It's this whole "new" world of Traveller that fascinates me not for the world itself, but the whole mechanical framework that makes the play happen. In the last episode I listened to, they spoke all about dice pools and it really sorted out some issues I had with Star Smuggler because of my personal experience with D&D. Bob and Jeff are truly enlightening, because of the way they present the Traveller rules while also looking other systems like Cepheus and make great comparisons in how things are done. 

Amazing. Why don't you give them a try? 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 005a

The Zephyr
Week 5 in going to involve some gun running, so the crew purchases a full load of hypercharges for 2000 secs. This reduces their funds to 1175. 

Imperia is an expensive planet, everything is at least double normal prices. However, the main limiting factor is space on the ship. The best way to think about this problem is how to remove as much stuff from the cargo hold. Some items have a specific home. The 27 side arms are in the vault and take up 3 CU. The Regen tank is in medical, taking up 4 CU. The vacuum skimmer is cool, but it really has to stay in the cargo hold taking of 10 of 60 CU. The heavy side arms, robots and u-suits can be distributed in the crew quarters. The hoppers have their own spaces. Naturally, 19 fuel units can be divided among the hoppers. Additionally, the four repair units can be placed in Engineering while the 20 life support units can be placed on the hoppers for storage. 

There is now 50 CU available for items in the hold. The hoppers are too overloaded for use, not all the crew could escape on them due to the overpacking of equipment. Additionally, they should not be deployed because they crew doesn't want them damaged. 

I need 1 fuel unit and a few more repair units. I can sell 2 U-bots, the side arms and some of the life support units. The crew lands at the Industrial site and finds an empty room to search. None of the items in this area are worth screwing up a trade opportunity, so they move on. Looking at the table for the Industrial site, I need to roll a 5 (U-bots), a 7 for repair units, 8 for fuel, 10 for life support and 11 for side arms. There are a maximum of 5 rolls per day as they take 2 hours each. 

I get 5, 6, 10, 7 and 6. That's U-bots, a repairman, life support units, repair units and another repairman. Hmm. U-bots are 50 base price. The roll is a 3, or 5 times normal cost. They sell the bots for 500. It turns out life support units can't be sold here, so that roll is no good. Repair units are 5 each. The crew is going to take a chance on these and purchases 50 of them for 250. 

The next day, day 3, they roll again. They have excellent luck and sell all 50 repair units for 20 secs each or 1000 total. They also decide to sell the four in storage for an additional 80. The engineers are praying they have some good rolls, but no. They get a 3 which ends day 3. 

Day 4 doesn't go well. They purchase one fuel unit at a price of 2. Now they have a solid 20 fuel units or 10 per boat. No other good items appear. 

Day 5, the crew hits the jackpot and can buy side arms at cost of 15 each. Side arms are good cargo because a box of 10 takes up 2 CU. It's now a question of how much cash they have. They have 2503 secs. They buy 123 of them, when combined with the 27 they already have, they have a total of 150 weapons. They take up 30 CU, so they have a bit of breathing room. 

They take the rest of they day to get to the rough areas and I will roll for entry on the next morning. 

Day 6, welcome to the roughs. The Zephyr encounters nothing on the way in to the area, but attempts a contact. They meet up with some rough characters, gun runners who have a ton of arms. The crew is loaded for bear with the ship and hopper guns, so this is not a concern.  

They offer to buy the side arms for 5 each times 10. They take in 7500  less the 1845 they paid for them. The ship's account is up to 8158. 

On day 7, they try again to meet up with the arms dealers. It doesn't work out, instead they meet up with a party of royal guards. Nothing comes of it. 

The next day (EDIT - DAY 8!, I goofed), they get lost and have to boost the ship to a higher altitude to find their way out. A wasted day. 

On day 8 9, they move to orbit and dock at the space station. They may a payment and end the week with 6958. Each crewman receives 74 secs. 

I am going to cut off at the end of Day 8 9. As a player, my inclination is to return to something safe and sure like that cargo run from Regari to Palatek. As a game master, this is where I would kick the players in the butt to make fun stuff happen. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Session 004

The Zephyr
Week four didn't start out as planned.  The crew is on Nipna and is looking to get off world. The ships took a heavy beating on the last day of the week and the crew has decided repairs are in order. 

In this run through of the game, each character is an independent crew member and has a stake in the ship. While I have been avoiding splitting the crew, I decide that it is reasonable in this case. 

The engineers, Mel and Sarah pour over the ship and the hopper to get all the repairs done on day 1 of week 4. Emily and Patrick are there with heavy hand weapons and the ability to fly the ship away in case they get a bad roll again. 

Jason, Burnie and Alex take off to look for better guns for the ship. The Zephyr has one empty turret and the other only holds TL-1 guns. This proved to be a problem as they could barely defend the ship. The hoppers with TL-6 guns are far more effective. 

They managed to purchase 2 sets of TL-5 guns for a total 3200 secs. They also sold the old guns for 600, which leaves the ship with only 1464 in the ship's account. They crew feels they are dangerously low on funds as hypercharges cost 500 and a ship payment is 475. They have less than 3 weeks of cash in the bank and nothing has been paid on the principal. 

On day 2, they lift of and head for New Karma. 

New Karma is a rather dangerous planet. It is both rich and low tech, but there is a heavy risk of becoming wanted or being attacked at random. Additionally, this planetary system is the most obscure of all of the systems in the game. I mean that literally. There is a lot of rolling for one event that forces you to another event. You can't really see threats coming by flipping to the next entry. 

Luckily, the ship is undetected on entry to the system and proceeds to land in the Ruins. 

Over the next six days, the crew manages to accumulate some goods. In order, they are: 

A skimmer with no fuel, 
10 damaged u-suits that require an RU for repair and a roll to see if it works, 
A damaged U-bot, 
Another undamaged skimmer with no fuel,
A ship's boat with 4 hits of damage, 
An undamaged U-bot, 
A TL-1 side arm, 
A undamaged GM-bot. 
A damaged GM-bot. 
A repair unit. 

That brings us to day 7. 

The engineers burn up four RU to fix the ship's boat. I deem that two engineers working together, can repair one point of damage each. While they are doing that, the rest of the crew creates a cache for the 2 skimmers. 

One of the quirks of this is system is you have to have enough space in terms of CU to fit things in the ship. The rule sort of hint that you can put a boat inside the cargo bay, so that is what they do. 

Now the ship is using all three bays for boats and the largest bay also holds a skimmer. There are 10 CU left, unless I want to start packing things in the hoppers. I am going to do that. Two have guns, so that means 10 of a combined total of 75 CU of space is taken. I also divide the life support units and repair units among the hoppers. That is another 23 CU of 75 taken. I have 42 left. The crew loads in some heavy hand weapons, side arms (just 7) and all of the extra u-suits. 

If they don't take too long, the cached items can be recovered later. The crew decides to go for broke, and try a double jump to Talitar then a single jump to Imperia. At Talitar, there is a single scoutship waiting for us, but they quickly jump again with no incident. 

In the Imperia system, the Zypher only gets a radio check in and can proceed to the surface. The crew decides to stop at the Space Station to try and sell off some goods. They managed to sell the extra hopper for 2500 and immediately pay an interest payment. They have 3489 secs. 

At this point the crew moves the ship away to do some much needed maintenance in orbit, with no random checks. They now have the following in the cargo holds: 

2 Hoppers TL-1, 19 fuel units, 2 GM-bots at TL-5, 2 U-bots at TL-2, 1 vacuum skimmer TL-5 (e153), 3 TL-1 u-suits, 1 TL-6 u-suits, 27 side arms at TL-1, Regen Tank TL-6 (e153), Defense Screens, 20 life support units, and 4 repair units. 

The crew also collects its pay (314 secs) which drives down the ship's account to 3175. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Play Session 003

What I think a Smuggler
looks like... 
We are in week three. The crew is on Nipna and is looking to make a profit. Emily proposes that they move to the colony where they can trade some goods. To further this goal, Emily orders the hoppers deployed, freeing up their 40 CU slots on the ship. Now the Zephyr can hold a ridiculous amount of products, so long as they don't move. 

Over the week they spend a lot of time purchasing low and selling high. It isn't all that interesting. they take on some u-suits, fuel units, repair units and weapons. Emily decides to stock the ships weapons locker with two cases of side arms TL-6 and arm the crew appropriately. Every crew man has atleast a TL-6 side arm plus the Emily and the Gunners all have heavy side arms. They also take on 6 addition TL-6 heavy side arms for future use. Surprisingly, they make the most money off the fuel and repair units. 

By the evening of day seven, they have made 2540 secs. Emily calls it and moves the ship back to the spaceport where they set down and redeploys the hoppers in order to take on more goods. 

Emily is feeling kind of broke, so she personally invests in some repair units and then hopper guns. She manages to make herself 430 secs. Additionally, the crew arms up the hoppers with new TL-6 guns at a cost of 240 secs., which was slightly offset by selling the guns they had for 30 secs each. The rest of the crew takes a day of RRR and are impressed with her trade skills.   

On day 9, things go wrong. Very wrong. It was decided the ship would depart on Day 10. The crew would pick the destination once they made orbit. Since day 9 was a day of RRR except for Emily, they accidentally rolled a contact. They got the dreaded e133 Death Squad again. 

The Zephyr and one of the hoppers are damaged by two titanic explosions as the miner's connected and exploded. 

And here is where the rules go batty. There are some references to explosive hits on a ship and boat, but these guys merely have to touch the ship to cause damage. But how much? I don't know. Since damage is determined by a to hit roll and they don't have to roll to touch something, what happens?  

I can't imagine that someone could miss touching a starship or a boat. They are walking bombs so I decided that they do 1 point of damage to the Zephyr and 1d6 plus a critical to the hopper, just like a blast from ship's guns. The hopper takes 2 points and rolls for breakdown. It's a TL-1 hopper, it doesn't breakdown. 

The next round is brutal. The hoppers open fire with their guns as the Zephyr leaps into the air. They down the spitters while the other two members of the squad mill about. The hoppers lift off and continue the carnage. 

Three rounds of combat and the squad is dead. The crew seriously considers upgrading the Zephyr's guns. 

Day 10 is spent as RRR with no results. They obviously get a visit from the local police, which doesn't really effect anything. The police are just happy to have the Death Squad dead and the Zephyr leaving the planet. The engineers patch up what they can before heading to bed. One hopper has a good sized hole in it (1 point of damage). 

The ship's account starts day 10 at 7404 secs. The crew is paid off 74 secs. each. Emily phones in the ship's weekly payment of 475, leaving 6263. 

The crew will pick a new destination on day 1 of week 4. 

The ship holds the following resources: 2 Hoppers TL-1, 2 Hopper guns TL-6, 1 Ship's Guns TL-1, 18 fuel units, 1 GM-bot TL-5, 1 vacuum skimmer TL-5 (e153), 3 TL-1 u-suits, 1 TL-6 u-suits, Regen Tank TL-6 (e153), Defense Screens, 20 life support units, and 8 repair units, 27 TL-6 side arms, 6 TL-6 heavy side arms. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Play Session 002

Last post, we ended with the crew of the Zephyr winning big at the gambling tables, only to have Emily get jumped for her money and gear. Mel not only wins big at the high roller table, he also purchase a TL-6 side arm that fires like a heavy hand weapon. Feeling bad for Emily, he gives her the weapon. She wants to hear more about the seller because she wants enough firepower to get even with those hoods that jumped her. 

As Mel explained how he met this arms dealer, (e153) Emily hatches a plot. 

Ok, as mentioned in the prior post, each member of the Zephyr crew is an independent character like Duke was in Star Smuggler. While they lack his skills and stats, they have his equipment and money, plus that independence. In this scenario, Duke holds the title on the ship and is the person that the crew pays interest and principal to. 

When Emily calls him about the most recent payment, she flubs her cunning check and lets slip that she is about to go from legit trader to vigilante. Duke squashes the idea and implicitly tells her to get back to trading. The casino vacation is over. 

The crew makes their weekly payment and have 1375 in the ship's account to work with. Additionally, the individual crewmen have several thousand secs to spend on personal equipment. 

Emily rallies the troops and they spend the next 4 days trading in the Spaceport. They buy low and sell high on Ninpa. One of the quirks of this system is items have a base price which is modified by the wealth of the system. Prices are modified from x1 to x20. This increases rather steeply on high cost planets, but even under the worst conditions the player can make 10 times what they spent because the difference of the highest and lowest prices are based on a 1d6. You're equally likely to get x1 or x2 prices as it is to get x10 or x20.  

While the majority of the crew are looking for resources or salable goods, Emily is looking for more gunmen. At the end of the week, the players obtain a GM bot, 20 life support units and sell off 10 of 30 fuel units. Mel made an opportune purchase of 10 additional GM bots and sold them for a whopping 6000 secs. All said and done, the ship's account jumped to 6769. 

Emily, on the other hand started looking for more stake holders, crew for the ship. She successfully recruited 2 pilots named Jason and Alex, 2 gunners named Pete and Burnie plus Sarah, an engineer. Each of them put up 100 secs. to join the crew topping up the ship's account to 7269. 

Here are the new character's stats: 

Jason - Pilot
Marksmanship - 3     Hand-to-Hand - 1     Endurance - 4     Cunning - 3     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 550 secs.  

Alex - Pilot 
Marksmanship - 4     Hand-to-Hand - 1     Endurance - 5     Cunning - 1     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 150 secs. 

Burnie - Gunner
Marksmanship - 4     Hand-to-Hand - 2    Endurance - 7     Cunning - 5     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 550 secs. 

Pete - Gunner
Marksmanship - 3     Hand-to-Hand - 3     Endurance - 4     Cunning - 2     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 50 secs. 

Sarah - Engineer
Marksmanship - 2     Hand-to-Hand - 2     Endurance - 5     Cunning - 6     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 250 secs. 

After successfully getting the require crew for a good hit on the hoods, Emily tried to make contact with the weapons dealer. They ran into a repo team the first day, but this is a non-event because the ship's weekly payment was already made. 

On the second day, the crew met with disaster. On their second day out, they ran into a Mynkurian Death Squad (e133). On a high tech world like Nipna, this could have been deadly. 

For role play purposes, I placed the crew in a bar looking for contacts. Half the party was in one booth while the rest of the party was in a second booth. When the Death Squad entered, they couldn't pick out leaders, so I rolled 50-50 for which table interested them. They picked Emily's table and fired two shots on them. Two of the squad are miners that go after bots and vehicles and explode on contact. Since the party didn't have these items, they hesitated. The "gold slayers" have poison knives and target officers. Since no one was displaying a weapon or insignia, they also paused. The spitters fired two shots at a random character, who happened to be Emily. She was stuck for 6 hits and returned fire burning one spitter to ash with her new pistol. The remaining characters opened fire, too. With TL-1 sidearms they didn't down anyone but the two miners took 1 and 2 points respectively. 

The remaining spitter targeted Emily again. He missed but Emily blew him away. The rest of the crew took down both miners since they were closer. 

In the third round, Emily was forced to flee and no one could shoot the lead "gold slayer". The second "slayer" was hammered by 7 side arm shots. 

In the forth round Emily stood her ground and fired. The "slayer" beat the odds and stabbed her. While Drew administered first aid, the rest of the crew punched and kicked the last slayer to death. 

For the rest of the week, Emily is laid up with injuries. Drew puts her in the Regen tank and she is restored to 9 Endurance. She decides not to risk the tank a second time. The GM-bot does it's thing on the ship and maintains the tank to keep it safe and available. 

Over the next two days, the rest of the crew is very luck and makes 2 contacts with the "weapons dealer". This is e153 High Technology Items. In the reading of the event, the crew makes a roll to see what item they are offered. To role play this one out, I decided that this dealer is a lot like The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy and what item the characters get is based on the party's internal arguing with each other. 

The crew is dominated by spacemen and they select first the vacuum skimmer with life support and starship defensive screens for 1,500 secs. This comes out of the ship's account as they are items for the ship. The account now holds 5,469. 

Had Emily been with them, I would have had her make a cunning roll to try to get those powerful side arms. But she wasn't and most of the crew are new and pilots or engineers. They think better equipment is the best. 

At the end of the week, each member of the crew receives 55 secs. which reduces the ship's account to 4864. The ship has the following resources on board: 

2 Hoppers TL-1, 2 Hopper guns TL-1, 1 Ship's Guns TL-1, 20 fuel units, 1 GM-bot TL-5, 1 vacuum skimmer TL-5 (e153), 3 TL-1 u-suits, 1 TL-6 u-suits, Regen Tank TL-6 (e153), Defense Screens, 20 life support units, and 10 repair units. 

The characters have the following equipment: 

Emily - Pilot
Equipment - utility suit (T-6), sidearm (T-6, explosive rounds).
Money: 74 secs.  

Mel - Engineer
Equipment - utility suit (T-6), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 3769 secs. 

Drey - Medic
Equipment - utility suit (T-6), PS-bot (T-1).
Money: 74 secs. 

Patrick - Gunner
Equipment - utility suit (T-6), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 1074 secs. 

Jason - Pilot
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1). 
Money: 615 secs.  

Alex - Pilot 
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 205 secs. 

Burnie - Gunner
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 605 secs. 

Pete - Gunner
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 105 secs. 

Sarah - Engineer
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 305 secs. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

New Star Smuggler Equipment

I have always wanted new equipment for Star Smuggler but balancing them against the rules and scenarios makes it difficult.  

One of the difficulties is, adding more shots per round or increasing damage is not viable. More shots would increase the chance of a critical, while increasing the damage from 1 to an arbitrary number would result in speeding up combat a bit or being an instant kill weapon. Criticals are termed a something that puts a character down and out without zeroing out their endurance.  

For this reason, the new weapons must be more limited but still useful. In the case of a stunner, a critical always blocks the enemy from taking their next action, which is useful. The body pistol is like a tiny sidearm that can't punch through utility suits let alone armor. The upside is it can be concealed from searches. Both make sense in the setting as they can't damage vehicles at all, which is a bonus when the vehicle is keeping you alive.

One quirk of the sidearm is anyone can use them, but the rules specifically say that certain characters can't. I believe the spirit of the rule is someone without training is ineffective. A to hit roll requires a number greater than 1, as you must roll under your combined marksmanship skill and the tech level of the weapon. For Duke has a Marksmanship of 5. With the standard TL-1 sidearm, he hits on a roll of 2 to 6 and misses on anything higher. For a medic with no marksmanship ability, he needs to roll under the TL of the weapon, which is 1 to 6. So a TL-1 gun won't work for him. What about a TL-6 weapon? He would hit on 2-6, which is a little weird. 

This is a small device that uses hand-to-hand ability to strike either in melee or at a distance. It is available from events where sidearms are available at the same cost. A box of 20 takes up 2 CU.  

To hit with a stunner, the character either shoots or swings it in melee. Add the character's hand-to-hand rating to the weapon's technology level. If the roll is under this value, a strike has been scored. If either of the dice is a 1 or 6, the target has been hit for a critical. Merely striking does no damage, a critical is needed to have any effect. 

When a critical scored, roll one six sided die. On a roll of 1, the target is unconscious for the rest of the day. On a roll of 6, the target is down for 6 combat rounds (30 minutes). Any other roll causes the target to lose their next action. 

A stunner does not cause physical damage and is useless against vehicles, robots, targets in utility suits or armored u-suit. Victims do not lose any endurance. 

This "weapon" is usable by anyone, such as drivers and medics. 

Body Pistol: 
This is a small, short ranged gun that fires slugs. It is different than a sidearm as it can be hidden. If a character is searched, they can keep the gun hidden with a cunning roll. It is available from events where sidearms are available at twice the cost. These weapons are limited to Tech Level 3 or less, any higher roll will be treated as TL-3. A box of 20 takes up 1 CU.  

The Body Pistol has tactical advantages at a cost. When shooting at a target, it does 1 point of damage on a hit. However, it cannot inflict criticals against vehicles, or targets wearing a utility suit or armor. The point of damage will not penetrate or damage a utility suit. it's the shock of impact and bounce that causes the point of damage to the wearer. Unprotected individuals can take extra damage or be knocked out on a critical. 

Body Pistols are considered gimmick weapons and are only outlawed where all weapons are prohibited.   

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Revisiting Star Smuggler - Play Session 001

Ok, I really dig the Traveller Podcast SAFCOcast. I've tried to play Traveller a couple of times and it is pretty clear I don't grok the rules. I need someone to hand hold me. I've had fun every time I played with a group, but left to my own devices, I get lost in the expansive thing that is Traveller. 

In order to simulate the experience of Traveller without the helping hand, I'm trying out Star Smuggler from the perspective of a party of adventurers rather than a solo captain with a bunch of hired hands. 

In order to make this happen, I have taken Duke out of the Captain's Chair. Duke is now an agent for a ship manufacturer. He is looking for some young folks to fly a new ship. It's a subsidized ship which is far superior to the old Antelope class ships currently plying the spaceways. 

A player can have as many characters as they wish, up to 5 to start. They can be any type of character within the rules for retainers, except psionists. Each one's stats is generated by the rules in the appropriate section. However, they each receive the personal goods that Duke would receive. One of them will have Duke's stats. Every character has a utility suit, a sidearm and 1d6x100+150 secs. If a character cannot make use of a sidearm, they may have one PS-bot. Additionally, each of these characters has a cunning score of 1d6. 

In order to become a member of the crew, these characters must purchase a stake in the ship for 100 secs. This goes into a general account for the purposes of running the ship. This account starts with 750 secs and is increased by sales of goods and purchases of stakes. It is decreased when the crew purchases cargo for transport, improvements for the ship and pays fees. It is also used to pay down principal of 190,000 and make weekly interest payments of 475 secs. It may not be used to purchase personal good for the crew, with the exception of healing, transportation for business and utility suits as replacements for ones lost due to circumstances. 

I've tried a couple of different mechanics and this is the simplest thing I could do. Crew members are differentiated from retainers by virtue of purchasing a stake. The crew can ask retainers to join the crew, but don't have to do so. Retainers receive the listed salary in the rules, while crew members benefit from their stake. The crewman draws 1% of the ship's account per week per stake and at the end of 10 years, when the ship is paid for, they will have partial ownership in the ship. Crew members may purchase additional stakes, but only 50% ownership can be allotted to crew. 

This new ship is an Antelope II class ship and the crew has named it Zephyr. It has 2 cargo holds for a total of 100 CU of storage. Alternatively, one hold can be used for a second hopper. The ship has one hopper to start with T-1 guns. The ship is equipped with 15 fuel units for the hopper. The ship has two turrets, but initially has only one set of guns mounted. As per normal, everything is T-1. EDIT - The ship has 15 hits. 

The most expansive change is the crew space. There are now 32 CU for crewmen divided into two 16 CU sections. This space also houses a 6 CU medical unit, which is a room with space for a medic or doctor to work. There is a weapons hold which can be used for anything, it can only be opened by the crew, not retainers or other non-crew members. The Antelope II has no hiding places as it is a more legitimate ship than the older style Antelopes. 

Ok, now that the rules are laid out, let's detail the characters that crew the Zephyr. It should be noted that all characters have a cunning score and I set it to 4. Each crew member has a stake score listed as a percentage, which represents how much of the ship they own and how much they can draw from the ship's account. 

Emily - Pilot
Marksmanship - 5     Hand-to-Hand - 6     Endurance - 10     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 450 secs.  

Mel - Engineer
Marksmanship - 1     Hand-to-Hand - 2     Endurance - 4     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 450 secs. 

Drey - Medic
Marksmanship - 0     Hand-to-Hand - 3    Endurance - 6     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), PS-bot (T-1).
Money: 250 secs. 

Patrick - Gunner
Marksmanship - 5     Hand-to-Hand - 5     Endurance - 4     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 350 secs. 

Ship's Account - 1150 secs. 

Week's Event Logs. 

The crew starts off at the Spaceport on board the Zephyr. On the second day, they manage to find a contact (e192) that can set them up on a supply run to Paletek. The deal is, they purchase carvings from the colony on Regari for 5 secs per CU and move them to a city on Paletek, where they sell them for 10 secs. On Paletek, they can buy electronics for 60 secs per CU and sell them to the Regari Colony for 100 secs. All of these prices are base price and are subject to die rolls. 

Normally, I don't go this route, but decided to give it a go. They purchase 100 CU of carvings, make the weekly payment on the ship, then they break for orbit. The Ship's account is rather spare, since this was a combined cost of 975 secs.

By the morning of day 4, they off load the goods with no problems. They make 3000 secs. They use the ship's account to purchase 3000 secs or 50 CU of electronics and make for orbit. By the middle of Day 5. they've sold the cargo again (+5000 secs.) and started return trip with 83 CU of electronics (-4980).  

One of the limiting factors in this is, unless the crew gets creative with storage, they can only carry 100 CU of goods. The second limiting factor is, hypercharges. I haven't mentioned those, but the Zephyr has 6 and they are out now. 

They off load the electronics for 8300 secs and make their way to the spaceport to buy more hypercharges. For the record, the ship's account has 8495. They spend all of Day 6 shopping. They purchase a second hopper and a set of boat's guns (900+160), 10 repair units (10), and 6 hypercharges (3000). The ship's account is now down to 4425. 

The crew decides they need to take a break and head to Nipna for some R and R. By the morning of day 9, they have burned four hypercharges, landed at the spaceport and walked to the Casino. By noon, they are rolling dice. 

Rather than detail all of the gambling, I will just show how much each character had leaving the tables: 

Emily - 400 secs.  
Mel - 800 secs. 
Drey - 500 secs. 
Patrick - 500 secs. 

They did great, but let's add in some role play. The gang is pretty drunk and foolishly play the high stakes table. Each one puts up 100 secs in 10 secs. increments and tried to score some money for the ship's account. They lost 400 secs but ultimately won an additional 900 secs. Mel returned the tables and ended up with more 800 secs. for the ship's account. The funny things drunk people do. 

The crew, drunk and scattered drew some attention walking out. Emily who was holding the 900, plus her own money got robbed. They took everything from her. Drey, Mel and Patrick were give the same offer to play more games. Drey got cleaned out, but Patrick doubled his money and Mel did amazing multiplying his money and the ship's account money by 5. 

On the morning of day 10, they staggered back home. Emily got there first, followed by Drey then Patrick. Mel was detected on entry to the spaceport and rolled e153. Amusingly, since the rest of the crew planned RRR, they also made a contact which resulted in e153. 

To keep things clear, I'll run more numbers now: 

Emily - 0 secs.  
Mel - 4000 secs. 
Drey - 0 secs. 
Patrick - 1000 secs. 
Ship's Account - 8425

Now that that is squared away, let's talk about e153. It's a chance to buy high tech items. Since Mel was alone with this one, he couldn't consult the crew or spend more than what he had on him. He purchases the high powered sidearm (T-6) which fires explosive rounds for 250 secs. He wanted 4 of them, but it's one per customer. 

This gets a bit weird, but since Mel has a large chuck of the ship's funds on him, the rest of the crew hems and haws over paying 4000 secs for the regen tank. On Mel's return, they are extraordinarily happy to find that he has another 4000 for the account. This means people get paid. It's secs. that they didn't have before. 

Mel feels bad for Emily and hands over his shiney new sidearm. The crew is amped up for more shenanigans. They replace their hypercharges and buy a 5 overpriced utility suits so everyone has one and a spare. Next week they are going hunt down some muggers and get even. 

Emily - Pilot
Marksmanship - 5     Hand-to-Hand - 6     Endurance - 10     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-6), sidearm (T-6, explosive rounds). 
Money: 19 secs.  

Mel - Engineer
Marksmanship - 1     Hand-to-Hand - 2     Endurance - 4     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 3769 secs. 

Drey - Medic
Marksmanship - 0     Hand-to-Hand - 3    Endurance - 6     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), PS-bot (T-1).
Money: 19 secs. 

Patrick - Gunner
Marksmanship - 5     Hand-to-Hand - 5     Endurance - 4     Cunning - 4     Stake - 1%
Equipment - utility suit (T-1), sidearm (T-1).
Money: 1019 secs. 

Ship's Account - 1849 secs.