Small Craft

The Diaspora book mentions Interface Vehicles mostly in passing. For a single build point any spacecraft can have the facilities to carry one, but it’s use is most often glossed over. There are no rules describing how they operate or how they might be handled in combat. The book does however include rules for fighters. I have adapted and expanded these to be used for any small non-interplanetary spacecraft designed to be carried by a larger vessel. These rules are mostly meant to represent interface vehicles, but also supersede the optional fighter rules, or used to represent smaller spacecraft not designed for interplanetary travel.

Building Small Craft

Small craft are cheaper and built with fewer build points. The equation is 2 times the tech level, +2. This comes out to 2 points at T0, 4 points at T1, 6 points at T2 and so on. At T-1 interplanetary spacecraft are rare and the distinction between regular and small craft does not yet exist. As such they are built using the normal rules. The core rules say fighters have two stress boxes per track and one(!) aspect, but that’s not fate-y enough for me, so I say their stress tracks and aspects are the same as regular spacecraft.

Example
We are creating a T2 interface vehicle using the small craft rules. The Lucifer TAV is an ex-military dropship re-purposed for civilian cargo hauling. At T2 we have 6 points to work with. We lower it’s heat and hull track by one each to get two extra points. It also has 5 aspects.

Small Craft Skills

Small craft have the same ship skills as regular Spacecraft, but some are handled differently, particularly if they are being used as interface vehicles. Rather than overall cargo capacity, trade represents how efficiently the small craft can ferry cargo between it’s mothership and the cargo’s final destination. If the mothership does not have access to a high port, it’s Trade value will be limited by the trade value of it’s interface vehicle. If more than one interface vehicle is available, use the highest one. You may not combine the values of more than one small craft because this represents fuel efficiency rather than overall space. You may however use one small craft to service more than one regular Spacecraft, it will just have to make several trips.

V-shift is also handled differently, an small craft used as an interface vehicle needs at least 1g of thrust to escape a planet’s gravity. It will typically over-burn to achieve this, this means it needs at least v-shift 2 and one box of heat to launch from an earthlike world. Larger or smaller worlds may require higher or lower values. Similarly a spacecraft with a V-shift of 3 does not need to overburn to reach orbit on earthlike worlds with standard gravity.

Small craft cannot have the huge aspect. By default they have the aspect small instead. If their stats imply the spacecraft would be huge, it is instead regular sized and does not get an automatic size aspect.

Example
The Lucifer is built for flexibility rather than total capacity. It has V-shift 2, and Trade 2. This spends 4 of it’s points, leaving us 4 for stunts. The military version has Trade 1, Torpedo 1 instead of Trade 2.

Small Craft Stunts

Small Craft share some stunts with regular Spacecraft, but many of them work differently.
+ Trans-atmospheric (One or two points) The craft is a TAV capable of SSTO flight. For one point the craft can land on a planet with a spaceport and return to orbit after being refueled. For two points the craft can land on any planet and return to orbit after refueling itself by extracting hydrogen from the planet’s oceans.
+ Airless Lander (One point) The craft can land on a moon or planetoid with no atmosphere and low gravity, and then return to orbit after loading or unloading cargo.
+ Extended range (Two points) Normally small craft only have enough to delta-v to reach orbit or travel between moons in a planetary system, not both. Unless it has this stunt, An interface vehicle will be free compelled with Low on R-mass after reaching orbit.
+ Cheap (One point) This works like the regular stunt, but has a lower price.
+ Civilian (One point) This works like the regular stunt, but has a lower price.
Extended range, automated defense, and over-watch work like normal. Carries fighters and interface vehicle are not allowed (no matroska spacecraft) Skeleton Crew is superfluous as all small craft are designed to be operated with a minimal crew if they are even manned at all. Other stunts such as attacks a different track may or may not be allowed at the GM’s discretion (I don’t like them myself and they are kind of expensive, but I don’t see the harm)

Example
The Lucifer needs the two point version of trans-atmospheric to do it’s job, and a firewall automated defense. The Military version will also have point defense, and the civilian version will have civilian instead. Final Stats for the civilian version look like this.
Lucifer TAV (Civilian) T2 6 BP Stunts Aspects
V-shift : 2 Trans-atmospheric II Ex-military SSTO
Trade : 2 Civilian Light Bringer
Hull : [][] Firewall Closed-cycle gaseous core nuclear thermal hybrid engine
Data : [][][] Marine operation
Heat : [][] Low altitude penetration capability
small

Usage in game

Small craft are more fragile and less important than regular Spacecraft. By default they share fate points with and send all consequences to their parent Spacecraft. This changes however if they are crewed by a player character or important NPC. In this case it will gain their own consequences and use the fate points of the character piloting.

Small craft are also designed to be operated by a minimal crew. In space combat, the character piloting may act in the positioning phase and one extra phase without suffering the -1 multitasking penalty. Other crew members (if any) act normally, granting a +1 bonus for having a higher skill, and suffering a -1 penalty for acting in more than one phase.

Atmospheric re-entry

A small craft with the trans-atmospheric stunt may enter a planetary atmosphere. The craft will be vulnerable while doing this. During any positioning phase, an enemy may attempt to free tag an interface vehicle with the aspect Communications Blackout. The player being compelled may attempt to contest it with a successful aircraft roll, but each time this is attempted will confer a -1 penalty to all further attempts, it has to happen eventually. The player may also chose to tag themselves with this aspect at any time by passing the same aircraft roll.

An interface vehicle compelled with Communications Blackout receives a +2 defense against beam and EW attacks. but will be unable to act in any other phase for the rest of the turn. Only use automated defenses.

The effects of Communications blackout last until the beginning of the next positioning phase. After which the interface vehicle must mark it’s highest heat stress box (if this is not possible, the spacecraft may take a consequence or be taken out, disintegrating in a fiery explosion) After this, the Interface vehicle is safe from being compelled in this way again for the remainder of the space combat session. The interface vehicle is now free flying in the atmosphere and under the effect of the aspect atmospheric scattering This aspect can be free tagged to provide a -2 against any beam attacks made by or against the interface vehicle from more than one range band away. This does not effect defensive beam fire.

Entering orbit

A small craft with the trans-atmospheric stunt may SSTO from a planetary surface. As with entering an atmosphere, the interface vehicle is potentially vulnerable in this stage. If the spacecraft has a V-shift rating lower than 3 and is trying to launch from an earthlike planet with 1g of gravity, it may be free compelled with the aspect Max-Q during any phase to prevent the interface vehicle from acting during that phase. As with Communication Blackout this may be contested with an aircraft roll. If successful, the defending player is safe until the next turn but will suffer a cumulative -1 penalty next time. Unlike Communications blackout this aspect only lasts one phase rather than a whole turn, and does not grant any specific defense. As before, the pilot may attempt to compel himself by passing the same roll to get it over with quickly.

Once the aspect has been successfully compelled, the interface vehicle must mark it’s highest heat box. If it does not have extended range, it will gain the free compel aspect Low on R-mass. Now safely in orbit, it is safe from any further compels of Max-Q until the next space combat. An interface vehicle that has not yet been compelled with Max-Q is under the effect of the aspect atmospheric scattering as described in the previous section.

Airless worlds

A small craft with the Airless Lander stunt may land on or lift off from any small moon or planeload with low gravity and minimal atmosphere. This is much safer than landing on an earth-like planet with an atmosphere, but has it’s own considerations. A lander may not attempt to land if it has Low on R-mass free taggable, and if it does not have extended range and did not land at a spaceport with refueling facilities, it will gain Low on R-mass after returning to orbit.

Although there are no special aspects for launching from or landing on an airless world, A lander resting on the surface has the Landed aspect. A landed spacecraft may be free compelled to prevent it from acting in the positioning phase, and free tagged to get a +2 to any beam attacks directed against it. It’s a stationary target. Landed may also however be free invoked for a +2 to any damage control roll, and invoked at cost for any other rolls a player can justify.

A landed spacecraft may chose to lit off at the end of it’s positioning phase and begin acting normally in the subsequent phases. If it does not have the extended range stunt or has not had a chance to refuel on the surface, it will gain Low on R-mass after returning to orbit. Similarly, a spacecraft in orbit which does not have Low on R-mass may elect to land at the beginning of it’s positioning phase, this applies the landed aspect and prevents them from acting during that phase.

Ferry service

A single small craft strategically placed can provide ferry service for a high port or several interplanetary cargo spacecraft. Provided it stays in the same area and is able to find work ferrying cargo back and forth from surface to orbit or between moons, it may make maintenance rolls as if it were a full sized Spacecraft. As stated before, any interplanetary Spacecraft using the small craft as an interface vehicle will have it’s trade value limited by the trade value of the interface vehicle.

Planetary defenses

The spacecraft construction rules can also be used to represent planetary defenses such as military bases or high altitude aircraft. Such entities have a V-shift of 0 (stationary from the perspective of a spacecraft) but are protected by the atmospheric scattering aspect detailed above. They tend to have high EW or Torpedo stats, automated defenses, and extended magazines. They might also have long hull and or data tracks. Here is an example of a missile defense instillation that may be found on many T0 worlds.

Missile command T0 5bp Stunts Aspects
V-shift : 0 Extended Magazine Planetary defense fortress
Torpedo : 2 Point defense Paranoid and claustrophobic
Hull : [][][]-[] Firewall Fine aged nuclear stockpile
Data : [][] Vector Randomizer Doomsday bunker
Heat : N/A Vacuum tube computers
atmospheric scattering
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