Obviously, as I’ve been playing through the battles and coordinating the movements of the UPF and sathar forces for the Detailed Frontier Timeline, the events and conditions surrounding the Second Sathar War have been on my mind. A lot.
While the rules in the Knight Hawks Campaign Books are really geared around a balanced war game, I’ve been porting the scenario over more to the RPG side and looking at it from that perspective. In this post, I thought I’d collect some of the ideas I’ve had along the way. The topics are not necessarily connected or in any particular order but all relate to the how the Second Sathar War would impact or play out in the Frontier. So let’s get started
I already mentioned this in one of the battle reports, but I’m not really considering the Rim in my narrative beyond the two battles I’ve already reported. I’ve never sat down and worked out the starship construction capabilities of the Rim, the order of battle for the Flight (the Rim’s version of Spacefleet), or any of those logistical considerations.
When I set this scenario up, literally decades ago, I didn’t have a copy of Zebulon’s Guide so the Rim was never in my considerations. Since I’m really just playing out that setup from so many years ago, and I never did the background work necessary for the Rim, they just weren’t part of the plan. I’m really just assuming that their fortunes go the same as in the Frontier.
Civilian and Megacorp Ships
I think handling these other Frontier ships is the biggest issue that moving this from a war game over to the RPG side of things needs to consider and I’m not sure how I’m going to address it completely yet.
In looking at starship construction based on the listed starship construction centers in the Frontier, I’ve estimated that without any changes to the SCCs, there are probably about 2300 ships flying around the Frontier, which is probably low. But let’s use that number to start.
There are 23 worlds in the Frontier (including Volturnus), so if you just divide those ships out, that’s about 100 ships per world. That probably shifts around a bit, for example, Laco, in Dixon’s Star, is an outpost world with very low population, so it probably doesn’t have as many ships. Neither would Volturnus. And the more heavily populated worlds probably have a little more. Morgaine’s World in Prenglar is also an outpost but since that’s the home of Spacefleet, I give them just as many ships as at least a medium population planet and say that those are all the Spacefleet ships.
Plus there are the ships that the megacorps own. We know that Streel and Pan Galactic have military ships, it stands to reason that WarTech and CDC do as well and I even gave some to Trans Travel in my timeline. So some fraction of those 2300 ships are going to be military vessels owned by the megacorps. All of which could do some damage to sathar ships invading a system.
Finally, and what I really want to focus on, is that given that piracy is a concern for ships in the setting, even the “non-military” ships are going to be armed to some extent or another, even if it is just a laser battery or three on any ship HS 6 or larger.
Let’s assume for a minute that every ship in the Frontier has at least a laser battery. Now some won’t have any weapons but others will have more than one so it probably all averages out. What happens if 50 of these ships decide to not sit idly by while Spacefleet dukes it out out with the sathar but join the fight?
First, lets just look at the “average” hull damage done by a laser battery. On the damage table, there is a 10% change of double hull damage, a 35% chance of regular hull damage and a 55% chance of damaging some other system. The laser battery does 1d10 damage for an average of 5.5 hull points of normal damage and 11 points when double damage is called for. Multiplying that out by the percentage that they occur means that on average, ignoring the damage from system hits, a hit by a laser battery does 3 HP of damage (11 points 10% of the time, 5.5 points 35% of the time and 0 points 55% of the time).
At an average of 3 HP of damage per hit, 14 hits kill a frigate, 17 kill a destroyer, 24 kill a light cruiser, 25 kill an assault carrier, and 27 kill a heavy cruiser. Do you see where this is going?
The next question is how often do these laser batteries hit? The base “average” chance to hit with a laser battery is 50%. But since laser batteries suffer from range diffusion, it’s only that high if the ships are within 10,000 km (1 hex on the game map) of each other. Getting that close means that the sathar can use their rocket batteries and torpedoes against you if they want and since these are civilian ships, we’ll assume they try really hard to stay out of the range of those weapons. So they shoot from 50,000 km (5 hexes) away and have a chance to hit of only 25%. Which means that the average laser battery shot, factoring in the miss rate, does a little over 0.75 HP of damage any given round.
That doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember that is an average taking into account of all the probabilities and that is per ship. So let’s look at those 50 ships. If you take 50 ships, each doing ~0.75 HP each time they fire, you have a combined damage output of 37-38 HP. And since the laser battery can fire both offensively and defensively, that doubles to about 75 HP each round of combat. That’s enough damage to take out any single ship expect a heavy cruiser.
And the truth is, that there is a good chance that the HP damage output is actually larger. We have 100 shots (50 ships, 2x each) at 25% to hit. So 25 of those shots hit the target. 11.25 (45%) of those do hull damage while the other 13.75 (55%) do system damage. But if the system damage results calls for a hit on a system already destroyed, you get hull damage instead. Some of those system hits are going to shift over to the hull side and increase the damage. (I really should write a program to analyze this and get the actual numbers.)
The bottom line is that in any give turn, that swarm of civilian ships could take out any one large sathar ship, two frigates, or a swarm of fighters.
From the sathar side, there is really nothing you can do about this. You are looking at 25-50 targets (depending on how you distribute the laser batteries), each with 30 or more HP, and taking out 2 or 3 each round is not going to make much difference in their damage output. They will overwhelm you with sheer numbers. Death by a thousand cuts.
This is something that the war game doesn’t have to deal with but which will definitely come into play in an RPG-level look at the conflict. Maybe the civilian and mega-corps ships won’t get involved. But if their worlds are threatened, I don’t really see them not stepping up, at least a good number of them. And what if Spacefleet calls for a 3rd Common Muster? (There has to be something in the UPF charter about that.) Then they will be involved. The sathar are going to need more ships.
Starship Construction Centers
In the war game, ship construction and replacement is very abstracted. Every 20 days, the UPF get 2 fighters and/or assault scouts for each fortified station on the map and a capital ship for every fortress. The sathar just have a base 35% chance to replace every ship lost in the previous 20 days.
A big part of this project for me was to see how using the starship construction rules, combined with the distribution of UPF starship construction centers, and giving the sathar some SCCs as well, would play out in the logistics of what ships were available for combat. I knew this would drag things out as you couldn’t replace ships that quickly but wanted to see what would actually happen. We’ll find out as this plays out.
But, as the first battles have been fought, and the UPF is looking to replace ships, I started really looking at the distribution of the SCCs in the Frontier. Until now I had just taken them for granted and not though much about it. And for the most part, the type of construction center and its location make sense for the SCCs described in the book. Analyzing that (and maybe reorganizing them) may be another post in the future. But three of the SCCs stood out as a little odd. Let’s look at those from least troublesome to most (in my opinion).
Clarion (White Light)
This is a Type III SCC which means it can have up to 20 hull sizes (HS) of ships under construction but they cannot be military vessels and cannot have atomic drives.
To me, this feels a little bit odd. White Light is the nexus for jumps to four different systems so it’s a major hub system (and the only access to Theseus). Maybe because it is the setting for the Warirors of White Light adventures but it seems to me that there should be a more major construction center here.
However, with the Type II center just a system away in Theseus, and the fact that the main output of the planet is resources, not industrial products, maybe having a small shipyard is okay even if the planet does have a high population and is a major crossroads.
Outer Reach (Dramune)
Like at Clarion, the Outer Reach shipyard is a Type III SCC. There are a couple of things that stand out for me here.
One is the lack of an SCC at Inner Reach. Given the animosity between the two worlds, which is part of the canon background material before you even factor in the events of the Dramune Run module, and the fact that animosity has erupted into fighting in the past, if Outer Reach has a SCC, I would expect Inner Reach to have one as well. I don’t see them being willing to wait for ships to come in from Fromeltar or Cassidine, they would want to be able to build them themselves.
The other issue I have is the SCC class. As a Type III SCC, this shipyard is not supposed to have the capability to produce military vessels or ones that use atomic drives. But since this world is the home of a major crime syndicate, and supplies and supports pirates, I see this shipyard as where many of those pirate vessels, which are assault scouts, corvettes, and frigates, are created. Thus the shipyard can obviously handle military class vessels and atomic drives and should really be a Type II.
Because of this, for the Second Sathar War, I’m classifying this shipyard as a Type II-s (the s is for small). It can still only handle 20 HS of ships total like a Type III SCC, but like a Type II, can build ships with atomic drives and military ships up to HS 6 (i.e. destroyers).
Pale (Truane’s Star)
This is the one that baffles me the most. The rules say that this is another Type III shipyard. Pale is classified as a medium population, which tends to indicate a smaller shipyard, but its main economies are industry and resources, which would lend itself to ship building and therefore a larger SCC. Having a Type III SCC here just doesn’t make sense to me for a couple of reasons.
First, everyone knows that the sathar have a jump route into the Frontier that goes through Truane’s Star. This was the locus of the First Sathar War that resulted in the founding of the UPF. Spacefleet has a fortress here, it would stand to reason that there should be a good shipyard to build up ships here as well.
Second, and more important to me, this is the world where Streel is headquartered. We know they make ships, the corvette is designed by them, and they have a number of ships to fight against the ships of the Pan Galactic Corporation in the corporate wars. Assuming the shipyard at Gran Quivera (Prenglar) is owned by PGC where they have their headquarters, and the one at Triad (Cassidine) is owned by the Cassidine Development Corporation where they have theirs, if the #1 and #3 megacorps have Type I SCCs, then the #2 megacorp should have at least a Type II shipyard, If not a Type I. It’s a matter of corporate pride and sustainability. I mean, if they don’t have their own shipyard, PGC and CDC could just deny building them ships and they’d have to travel even farther afield to Hentz or Fromeltar to get ships build. It just doesn’t make sense.
I’m leaving it as a Type III SCC for the Second Sathar War in the timeline, but if I ever revisit the SCC distribution in the Frontier, I think Pale will be getting a bigger one.
It seems I had one more item that I wanted to talk about but it is slipping my mind at the moment and I didn’t write it down when the idea occurred to me to write this post a week or so ago. If it does come back to me, I’ll have a topic for a future post.
Overall, the sathar did not fare too well in their initial foray into the Frontier. In fact, if this was just the war game, they may very well have lost the game as I believe every retreat condition that the sathar players could have chosen have been met. Although if I was using those retreat conditions, I probably would have set things up a little differently and made a few different choices. However, I’m not using those conditions directly and the sathar have another wave of ships coming later this month. After that, however, it might be a while as they rebuild their forces.
This post has given me the idea for a few other posts that may show up in the future. The first looking at the distribution of starship construction centers in the Frontier (and probably the Rim) and another looking at the average damage output by the different ship types. The third one would be a look at exactly what is in the UPF Charter. We’ll see when or if those actually materialize.
Have you ever tried to incorporate, in detail, the Second Sathar War into your campaign? What assumptions did you make and what ideas did you incorporate? What other ideas should I consider? Let me know in the comments below.