Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:03 pm

Man, I just realized its been over three months since my last campaign update. We haven’t played much, but I’ll try to get an update soon.

In the meantime, this campaign I follow (who’s GM posts on here very occasionally) has been very busy:

http://piratesofdrinax.blogspot.com/
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby paltrysum » Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:33 pm

Wow. That blogger's campaign is basically at its conclusion. "Finale" must be tricky to run. There's so much going on at the same time.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:47 pm

Yeah, they’ve been busy. The GM has posted on here occasionally. Kulthea, I think?

I love that they have a noble character that is obsessed with her wardrobe. Its so fitting for a Drinaxian Noble, and so different from my campaign. I also like that he never gave them a chance to negotiate with the Aslan. Very appropriate, under the circumstances.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Kulthea » Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:14 pm

Old School wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:47 pm
Yeah, they’ve been busy. The GM has posted on here occasionally. Kulthea, I think?

I love that they have a noble character that is obsessed with her wardrobe. Its so fitting for a Drinaxian Noble, and so different from my campaign. I also like that he never gave them a chance to negotiate with the Aslan. Very appropriate, under the circumstances.
Yes this is my campaign. I only jumped on here to see why I had a huge spike in visitor numbers LOL. Now I know. I've loved running it so far and glad that others are reading the blog and enjoying it too.

The decision to have no negotiations was a no-brainer after they made the deal in The Vorito Gambit. What happens next will be interesting as there are many loose ends and some surprises to come.

I'm still wondering what to do with Social Standing if there's no society to grant them that standing. I think I'll have to keep track of Effective SOC vs Permanent SOC as per the Traveller Companion. They have the means to maintain their social standing by spending money. For now.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby silburnl » Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:20 pm

Seeing that blog (hi Kulthea, I'm part of that spike) reminded me that I'd been meaning to start one of my own, so I did:

https://whosoncomms.blogspot.com/

I've also picked up the Harrier supplement as an eBook and, apart from concluding that I will need to get High Guard as well to properly understand some of the features of the ship, looking at the description of the ship systems combined with writing up my first session report on the blog prompted me to work through my understanding around handling stealth and detection in my game. The rules for this are a bit scattered.

To start with there's the section on sensors in the Spacecraft Operations chapter (p150-1) - which states that a successful Electronics (Sensors) check is what you need and then lays out what level of detail this gets you depending upon the range to the target and the sensor packages you have. This is backed up by some passages of text at the start of the Space Combat chapter:

Most hostile encounters in space will start at Very Long or Distant ranges, when the combatants first detect one another [...] However, in some circumstances ships might get a lot closer before hostilities begin, perhaps getting as near as Close range if a pirate successfully pretends to be an honest merchant, for example [...] surprise is very difficult to achieve in space, as there are few places to hide behind. However, damaged sensors or inattentive sensor operators can mean a ship can approach another without being spotted. (p155)

However there's also the quality of the sensor package, which is introduced in the Common Spacecraft chapter - where ships can have Basic (-4), Civilian (-2) or Military (+0) grade sensor suites plus there was the question of what qualifies as 'advanced' and 'very advanced' for including NAS and Densitometers in the suite, cross-referencing to my 1ed copy of the rules cleared that one up for me (these are the super-duper military packages).

So pulling all that together, I reviewed the first interception my players did - they have Stealth coating on the hull (-4) and are sneaking up on a civilian freighter (-2). The civvy is running for safety, so they are only using passive thermal/radar/lidar* but I reckoned they had a +2 modifier because they've got a bridge crew who are nervous about being out where pirates roam, many hours from the nearest patrol vessel and they've put their best sensor operator on the scopes. Overall then, they have a -4 which means they only succeed on a throw of 12. The question of whether they register a bogey on their screens before my PCs can fire a shot across their bow from Medium range then hinges on how many detection attempts they get in the time it takes for the Harrier to set up their shot - total thrust of 90 is required to close from Distant to Medium and the Harrier has a thrust of 6 - so it took them 15 space combat rounds (or 90 minutes) to close.

35/36^15 works out to the freighter having a roughly 1-in-3 chance of making a detection in that 90 minute window assuming they make a scan attempt every round (as implied by the write-up for the 'Make A Detailed Scan' task under Electronics (Sensors) - routine with a 10 minute increment drops down to standard difficulty with a one minute increment). The ability to close on prey undetected drops off very sharply if the target has better sensors or better operators of course (that ^15 really starts to bite) - a -3 on the roll means that the Harrier only gets into range undetected about 1-in-4 times, while for a -2 this chance drops to roughly 1-in-20 (moral of the story - don't try to sneak up on military vessels).

I didn't work all this out at the table of course - I wasn't going to spend 20 minutes scrolling through a PDF cross-referencing stuff and then make 15 sensor check rolls while everybody else watched me and yawned - I saw that the PCs had some hefty modifiers in their favour, made a single throw (which was came up as something like a 3) and ruled that the PCs got complete surprise. Still it's nice to work through the numbers afterwards and see that the outcome I narrated at the table was a reasonable one.

Regards
Luke

[*] Here's a question though, what sensor detail do you get for passive radar/lidar? There isn't a column for that in the table on p150. My assumption is that the column heading on that table should just read 'Radar/Lidar', with the distinction between active and passive determining the range at which different levels of detail are achieved.
--
Currently running Pirates of Drinax
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:25 pm

I think you almost have to keep a running log of this campaign to keep track of it. We keep a log for each ship of the dates of arrival and departure from every system, along with key events. With my travellers split three ways, you have to be pretty precise in terms of how fast they can get messages to each other, respond to events, etc.

The big question to me for Kulthea’s campaign is if the newly recruited systems to the nascent Empire of Sindal will be interested in staying under Empress Nitrane, with floating palace and all of Drinax and its history destroyed. That might be a tough sell. Was their loyalty to Drinax, to Rao, or to Nitrane and her retinue? Of course, they do have some ships left and two fully equipped secret bases (or did someone on Vallis’ crew give up the location of one when captured by the Aslan? :evil: ). so they could just do their own thing and forget the while empire idea.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby paltrysum » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:47 pm

silburnl wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:20 pm
I've also picked up the Harrier supplement as an eBook and, apart from concluding that I will need to get High Guard as well to properly understand some of the features of the ship, looking at the description of the ship systems combined with writing up my first session report on the blog prompted me to work through my understanding around handling stealth and detection in my game. The rules for this are a bit scattered.
My unsolicited recommendation is that you settle on something that makes game play entertaining. The stealth rules as they pertain to the Harrier have been a recent point of contention in my campaign. I initially attempted to just play stealth as written (at least as I saw it—as you pointed out, there are holes), giving the players a monumental advantage over their opponents even after combat began. Two things happened: 1) they had a ridiculous advantage over their opponents, being able to attack most ships at will without retaliation, and 2) I was later reminded that things like active sensors (e.g., radar), comms, maneuver drive usage and perhaps even weapons usage should light up the Harrier like a candle, stealth or not.

It's hard to take the toys away after you have handed them out, but that's exactly what I've done. The goal is to have better, more realistic game play with more challenges for the players. They might not realize it but the game will probably be more fun for them if they actually have to think their way through situations and not just depend on an item of extremely high tech that was gifted to them by the campaign.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Kulthea » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:58 pm

Old School wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:25 pm
I think you almost have to keep a running log of this campaign to keep track of it. We keep a log for each ship of the dates of arrival and departure from every system, along with key events. With my travellers split three ways, you have to be pretty precise in terms of how fast they can get messages to each other, respond to events, etc.

The big question to me for Kulthea’s campaign is if the newly recruited systems to the nascent Empire of Sindal will be interested in staying under Empress Nitrane, with floating palace and all of Drinax and its history destroyed. That might be a tough sell. Was their loyalty to Drinax, to Rao, or to Nitrane and her retinue? Of course, they do have some ships left and two fully equipped secret bases (or did someone on Vallis’ crew give up the location of one when captured by the Aslan? :evil: ). so they could just do their own thing and forget the while empire idea.
I keep a spreadsheet for Time purposes. My campaign has just clicked over 6 years in game time. One week for a jump really spreads things out. Another sheet for Standing with the planets. Then there's a rather complicated set of sheets for each base (specs, repair time using RUs, mining, manufacturing, etc). Then there are all the ships in the fleet - they get a sheet, and the NPC crew as well. Spreadsheet city!

Lady Nitrane is a reluctant heiress. There's always the 'true' heir (a hermit on Noricum) or Prince Harrick who is on Clarke. Or of course GeDeCo could come up with someone else (and they're going to "take care of" the travellers, whatever that means). The loyalty of the planets will be tested for sure, and I'm wondering how to handle that too.

The next session starts in about 20 hours (I'm in Australia) and in about 24 hours time we'll know more. Stay tuned.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby paltrysum » Thu Jul 04, 2019 2:04 pm

Great stuff, Kulthea! I'm enjoying your blog immensely. Best of luck with the big Finale.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Kulthea » Thu Jul 04, 2019 2:18 pm

silburnl wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:20 pm
[*] Here's a question though, what sensor detail do you get for passive radar/lidar? There isn't a column for that in the table on p150. My assumption is that the column heading on that table should just read 'Radar/Lidar', with the distinction between active and passive determining the range at which different levels of detail are achieved.
Bah just lost a long response in the ether, so here I go again.

The Harrier does have enormous advantage, but that's OK. It's a military ship, with proper military grade equipment, against tramp traders. The ship combat encounters shouldn't take too long or the main parts of the campaign will be overshadowed. Once the players work out that a threat to fire a particle canon works faster than chasing a ship down and blasting it then the encounters will go even faster.

Having said that there should still be some suspense or threat of failure. The Harrier has to be in a position to intercept the other ship before it reaches safety (100d to orbit isn't much time). If the other ship gets spooked and sends a distress call then maybe an SDB or Q-ship is on the way. Will the party have time to unload any cargo at all? And so on. I let the PCs have their superiority fun (and then some) because the overarching narrative for the campaign is diplomacy. It's very unlike nearly every other Traveller adventure in that sense because it's got a much larger scale.

Another point. The Harrier arriving in port - especially in the backwards Trojan Reaches - is a little like an SR-71 Blackbird arriving at a small rural airport. It's not really possible to disguise its intent, and it's going to look amazing and get all the attention. Word will get around - good or bad - and maybe the Imperials send a patrol to have a look. Maybe someone tries to steal it. Maybe someone offers to buy it. At the very least there'll be many opportunities for roleplaying.

To answer your questions: Yes, the active radar/lidar column is for all radar/lidar. The difference being the range, as you suggest, but also the active ship will be easier to detect in turn as it's putting out huge amounts of energy to send beams of energy to bounce off the other ship. (But then the Harrier has Military Countermeaures Suite to make locking onto it difficult anyway).

Also FYI the High Guard book calls the Advanced sensors "Improved" and the Very Advanced sensors are "Advanced". When you check out the Lab Ship and its Improved sensors they get the Densitometers also.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Thu Jul 04, 2019 3:55 pm

So Paltrysum and I had an email conversation regarding sensors recently. I’ll just cut and paste my response to him in this subject, with a couple of points added. This has worked well for my campaign:

My take is that you have to be “running silent” to get the advantage of stealth. If you’re using active sensors, you’re visible. Active sensors are required to target another ship with weapons, achieve a sensor lock, engage in electronic warfare (jamming comms or missiles). No stealth for you. Using radar is like shining a flashlight in the dark: you might be able to see them, but they will definitely see you. So you can sneak up on them, but no stealth once you’re engaged in combat.

Before or after combat, I’d have to find my notes at this point, but I think “passive sensors” have a -2DM, but allow you to be stealthed, so your opponent has a -6.

Any combat turn in which the Harrier isn’t shooting, locking on a target, or engaging in electronic warfare, then it can again be stealthy. This means the other ship must roll to detect it (at -6) once their distance moves from one range band to another. If they lose contact they can roll to reestablish it every turn, but they will probably fail given the -6DM. You could also say that they have to roll to maintain their signal after so many turns, but the range change trigger has always worked for us.

This usually boils down to the Harrier gets the advantage of stealth, or the advantage of military level countermeasures, but not both in the same turn.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Moppy » Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:12 pm

Whether or not it works in Traveller is a separate issue, but stealthy active sensors are theoretically possible and may be in use today.

An example from the real world might be an active submarine sonar that sounds like a dolphin sonar. Naturally this will be classified but if such a device exists and it known to the enemy, how are they going to check out every dolphin sound in the area? And if they do, is the enemy able to sneak away or ambush them while they are looking at the wrong dolphin?

There should be some natural radio noise in space from stars or cosmic radiation, and inhabited planets will have space TV broadcast signals.

It's your call whether or not the engineering for such a system is feasible. Stellar radiation can for example be mapped as ships can FTL to bring warning of it and the military may have a database of that. "Radar" signals that look like legitimate civilian signals will be a harder problem to solve.

There's also the ability to use a remote sensor platform with a tight beam communicator (comm-laser), so that any signals are identified as coming from the wrong location. I'm not sure if that counts as stealth since you now know someone dangerous is there, but you don't know where or who.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:17 pm

As a Ref I have to balance gameplay with realism, which is already enough of a challenge with futuristic technology. So I’ll skip the active stealth sensors.

The remote platform I would allow, however. Essentially a sensor drone. These actually make a lot of sense as a security net, and are possible within the rules. They’d have to be relatively large drones, essentially a computer run ship with sensors and a power plant. Include an m-drive if you want them to be self positioning.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby paltrysum » Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:22 pm

Moppy wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 5:12 pm
It's your call whether or not the engineering for such a system is feasible. Stellar radiation can for example be mapped as ships can FTL to bring warning of it and the military may have a database of that. "Radar" signals that look like legitimate civilian signals will be a harder problem to solve.
That may be. So much of speculative technology falls into the category of "angels on the head of a pin." We don't know what we don't know. Clarke's Third Law comes into play: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But for the purposes of an RPG, you also have to ask yourself what makes for good game play. For me, I've discovered that allowing them to fly around in an untouchable ship gets fairly dull. There have to be limitations put in place to make things challenging.

Chatting with Old School, I was glad to see that another ref ran into these same questions and came up with a workable solution.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Annatar Giftbringer » Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:28 pm

Book 4 of the JTAS Kickstarter has an article that I believe you guys would like. It's an in-depth look at sensor operations, complete with more detailed rules.

Without spoiling too much, a ship like the Harrier would still get its stealth bonus, but the detection roll would also be affected by things like active sensors, distance, current amount of thrust, and especially active jammers. Basically changes sensor ops from plot device to exciting mini-game :)
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Moppy » Thu Jul 04, 2019 7:46 pm

I agree that playability and fun must be the number 1 consideration.

IMO Harrier's benefit is that it's a symbol of Drinax authority, and the thing is useless in combat making it somewhat of a white elephant for a pirate. You can fit a 100-ton missile bay into a free trader by deleting staterooms and cargo, and evaporate 400 tons worth of hull points in one salvo, then have your mate pick up the salvage (edit: If it come to that, they're supposed to surrender first or something). Of course it's only jump 1 but it shows what a terrible idea trying to fight without real weapons like bays is and how nuts you'd have to be to try it.

As for the issue of attacking under stealth, I have no problems with it. I'd expect a combat ship to auto-win vs some random free trader. If it can't outfight it because someone didn't have bays on it, then it can use black magic like advanced sensors. Eventually the traders will leave, or they willl come back with escorts, ships with real sensors and weapons and competent crews, and then you'll have to go elsewhere to pirate.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:00 pm

Did you just say the Harrier is useless in combat? I’d take it any day head to head against your 100 ton missile bay free trader. That trader’s only hope is to sucker the Harrier into relatively close range (the opposite of the Harrier’s dominant fighting style), and even then there is real risk that your pirate crew all dies from the first shot of the Particle barbette.

That’s all before taking into account the difficulty your average pirate will have finding someone to sell and install said missile bay, paying its MCr 25 price tage, or paying the MCr6 price tag per missile salvo. And thats just for lousy standard missiles. You really need advanced or long range missiles to combat the Harrier.

The only threat any pirate ship in the campaign presents to the Harrier are those with their own particle beams, and that’s a whole ‘nother issue that we’ve discussed before.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Moppy » Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:48 pm

Old School wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:00 pm
Did you just say the Harrier is useless in combat? I’d take it any day head to head against your 100 ton missile bay free trader. That trader’s only hope is to sucker the Harrier into relatively close range (the opposite of the Harrier’s dominant fighting style), and even then there is real risk that your pirate crew all dies from the first shot of the Particle barbette.

That’s all before taking into account the difficulty your average pirate will have finding someone to sell and install said missile bay, paying its MCr 25 price tage, or paying the MCr6 price tag per missile salvo. And thats just for lousy standard missiles. You really need advanced or long range missiles to combat the Harrier.

The only threat any pirate ship in the campaign presents to the Harrier are those with their own particle beams, and that’s a whole ‘nother issue that we’ve discussed before.
Yes the Harrier is not very effective against something designed for combat.

For a start, a real warship will have rad shielding on its hull. You'll need an 11+ on 2D to do any rad damage under Core, and if you are using High Guard it's instead based on percentage of hull lost.

As was stated, the free trader was just an example of the sort of firepower you can get out of a bay and how easy it is - you don't need even need a big ship.

By the way, missile cost is per 12. (edit: This is an example of how not to write a rulebook; it's in Core where the cost of missiles is stated as fully refilling a turret of 12 for 250K and High Guard has the same cost but doesn't state how many you get).

The pirates in Naval Campaign have missile bays.

I don't see any rules or notes on starship-level weapon control. Why can't you buy a missile bay?
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby Old School » Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:10 am

The Harrier is too small to go up against a true combat vessel i.e. a destroyer or cruiser, that I agree with. But it could certainly destroy a type T corvette, a paramilitary vessel twice its size. I think the Pirates campaigns we’ve written about on this thread have shown its capabilities against Broadswords and Gazelles as well.

IMTU, military grade weapons aren’t commonly available on the open market for private buyers. That is a house rule, for certain, but so is your comment that “a real warship will have rad shielding”. RAW, Imperial navy ships don’t have radiation shielding until you get to cruiser size vessels. None of the destroyers or fleet escort vessels include it.

The Harrier is proof of technology over raw firepower. It would shred your free trader launching 24 missiles a turn, despite the trader’s obvious firepower advantage. Even with military sensors and radiation shielding, I’d take the Harrier. The only thin its own size that would overmatch is another particle beam equipped ship that also had radiation shielding.

But if we’re playing a game in which small combat vessels commonly come with radiation shielding, we have to give shielding to the Harrier as well. In that case, the only thing its own size that outmatches it would be a high tech level SDB. Ands thats the point of an SDB, that it can overwhelm a jump capable ship its own size.
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Re: Pirates of Drinax - GMs thread

Postby paltrysum » Fri Jul 05, 2019 12:30 am

Very few adventure-class ships are equipped with radiation shielding...although given the proliferation of PA weapons in “Pirates,” perhaps they should be.
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