Fuel Costs

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Tychus
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Fuel Costs

Postby Tychus » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:02 pm

The cost of fuel seems out of whack. My players have pointed out that sicne their ship is equipped with fuel processors, it will almost never make sense for them to buy refined fuel. Looking through the various ship designs, it appears that most jump capable ships include fuel processors. If you can refine a full tank's worth of fuel in a day or two - while selling and buying cargo, for example - why bother paying refined fuel prices? In fact, if you're going to be in port for a while, why not buy and refine extra fuel, and sell it at a profit?

It's true there are ships without processors who will often want to purchase refined fuel, and that in certain cases even a ship with processors may purchase refined fuel in order to leave port quickly, but the majority of the time it appears smarter to buy unrefined fuel. Suppliers undoubtedly know this - so why do they sell unrefined fuel at all?

Furthermore, the price of fuel is completely independent of the cost to manufacture it. In a system where the primary settlement is located near a gas giant, fuel prices should be low - otherwise potential buyers will just top off at the gas giant on the way out of the system. When a significant amount of travel time is required to reach the gas giant, ships are more likely to pay to refuel at the port, if the cost of fuel is less than the days lost in transit. However, in a system with no gas giant or other easily accessible fuel source, fuel costs should skyrocket.

As an example, my players recently visited Dallia in D268 - a system with no gas giant or liquid water, and a class C starport. Per the rules, this means unrefined fuel should be available for 100 Cr/ton - but on this world fuel ought to be very expensive to produce or import, and thus to purchase.

Has anyone modified fuel costs to reflect economic reality? If so, what are you using?
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Postby kristof65 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:24 pm

Ok, the only places to get "free" fuel are gas giants, ice and liquid oceans. All have issues, that may or may not be insurmountable.

Liquid oceans probably fall under the jurisdiction of the planetary authorities, and they may not take kindly to starships just siphoning off their water. I'd say the higher the law level, the more likely that is to get you into trouble.

Gas Giants might have the same issue, but one does have to account for travel time to/from them from the main world. Depending on the system configuration, this could add days, even weeks to their journey. The cost savings of "free" fuel could easily being countered by the lost trading opportunities.

Ice chunks floating through the system have the same issues as gas giants, plus the time to actually extract the hydrogen. Ice on outer planets may have travel times and/or "mineral" rights to deal with, particularly for systems that don't have liquid oceans or gas giants.

As for unrefined fuel, why wouldn't suppliers sell it in unrefined form if they can spare it? They don't have to spend the time/money to refine it, and any problems with the refining isn't their problem.

For systems that don't have a ready supply of "raw" fuel, I typically rule that unrefined fuel is NOT available there, and there may be a markup on the cost of refined fuel. After all, if they have to ship the fuel in, they're probably going to pay for refined fuel to be shipped in, to justify the markups.

I agree that fuel prices should probably be a little more volitile. From a game design standpoint, it's easier to just give fuel a fixed cost than write a system of rules to model the economics of it - particularly if that model might cause additional issues for many of the GMs out there. In the past, I've handled it two different ways - one is to just use the standard pricing and say that's the average the ship is paying. The other is to create your own economic model, and fluctuate prices according to it.
Last edited by kristof65 on Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fuel Costs

Postby simonh » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:28 pm

Tychus wrote:It's true there are ships without processors who will often want to purchase refined fuel, and that in certain cases even a ship with processors may purchase refined fuel in order to leave port quickly, but the majority of the time it appears smarter to buy unrefined fuel. Suppliers undoubtedly know this - so why do they sell unrefined fuel at all?
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Postby EDG » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:33 pm

Every single system (well, except ones with white dwarfs and other stellar corpses in them) has a source of hydrogen - the star itself.

The trick is to be able to extract material from the star. It seems a little strange that nobody has figured out how to skim stars for fuel yet, after thousands of years of space travel and advanced technologies (particularly given that the excess heat that one would expect to be generated by ship's power plants seems to magically disappear - couldn't that magic heat sink also serve to keep the ship cool if it star-skims?).

Plus, allowing that would make Traveller even more like the old Elite computer game :)
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Postby kristof65 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:40 pm

EDG wrote:It seems a little strange that nobody has figured out how to skim stars for fuel yet, after thousands of years of space travel and advanced technologies
One could say that's part of what the Darrians were doing when they blew their star up. :D

Don't most stars give off some hydrogen as part of their 'solar wind'.
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Postby EDG » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:52 pm

Solar wind is generally going to be too rarefied to be much use for scooping. I think you'd have to get really close to the star before you can scoop decent amounts of hydrogen.
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Postby kristof65 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:07 pm

EDG wrote:Solar wind is generally going to be too rarefied to be much use for scooping. I think you'd have to get really close to the star before you can scoop decent amounts of hydrogen.
I wasn't suggesting it would be viable for individual starships. But what about collection via "permanent" collectors? I suspect no, just wondering.
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Postby EDG » Fri Feb 13, 2009 9:47 pm

kristof65 wrote:
EDG wrote:Solar wind is generally going to be too rarefied to be much use for scooping. I think you'd have to get really close to the star before you can scoop decent amounts of hydrogen.
I wasn't suggesting it would be viable for individual starships. But what about collection via "permanent" collectors? I suspect no, just wondering.
Probably not... I suspect that you'd need really huge collectors, and then you're worrying about photon pressure pushing the collectors. I don't have solid numbers for this sort of thing though.
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Postby barasawa » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:08 pm

Here's a few ideas.

Unrefined fuel might be the starport letting you hook up to their water main. Of course a ship without fuel scoops couldn't do that anyhow.

Also, a non-jump ship would probably have no real issue with using unrefined fuel since they can't misjump in the first place.

Refined fuel seems to be for the Jump capable ships that are in a hurry, don't have an alternate refueling method, or doesn't have enough time. (Maybe they don't have enough life support to travel to gas giant, refine fuel, jump, and then fly to base before their safety margin is in danger.) Besides, from the traders viewpoint, every day the ship isn't making money, it's losing money.

Fuel scooping from the star. Traveller ships can't survive getting close to the corona of a star, there's no way they can get close enough to gather hydrogen by normal scooping methods. That doesn't apply to the Ancients, but did they need that much hydrogen?

An alternate idea from fuel scooping from the star. Using a modified bussard ramjet. Basically a bussard ramjet is a fusion engine that projects a big magnetic scoop (and possibly a polarizing ionizing beam) and sucks up the hydrogen in front of it. The faster it goes, the more hydrogen it gets. The trick is to get going fast enough to be pulling in enough hydrogen to maintain or increase your speed.
Now in the star harvesting scenario, the ramjet is only providing enough thrust (probably with a solar power supplemented ion drive) to maintain position, while the collected hydrogen would be put in storage tanks. It would probably be as close to the star as it could reasonably get without being destroyed. Normal ships would be uncomfortable that close, while the star harvester would have high armor and heat shielding. It would probably also have a lot of automation and a skeleton crew if any at all.
Almost forgot, radiation shield also. That close to the star is hot in both kelvin and gray. (The Gray is about 100 Rad, which it replaces.)
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Postby Kilgs » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:23 pm

I decided that fuel scooping and refining was way too efficient and changed the rate.
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Postby lurker » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:31 pm

That gas giant where you can get free unrefined fuel may be far away from where you are conducting business even if it's orbit is nearby. It may be on the oposite side of the star!
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Postby Woas » Sat Feb 14, 2009 4:50 am

lurker wrote:That gas giant where you can get free unrefined fuel may be far away from where you are conducting business even if it's orbit is nearby. It may be on the oposite side of the star!
I think that's a really good point. In a realistic 3d view of a system that gas giant one orbit over is not always in direct alignment with the planet a ship is orbiting. It might be on the other side of the system, effectively making 'free gas' seasons.

Does anyone know of a quick and easy way to determine the location of a planet within a system if a player wants to know? Of the top of my head I was thinking maybe rolling 2d6 to get a result that would be read like a clock.. but there would never be any planets at the 1 position, and most of them on average would be around the 7 position.
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Postby Galaga » Sat Feb 14, 2009 5:44 am

Get a d12 if you want to do that?
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Postby AKAramis » Sat Feb 14, 2009 7:31 am

Rol 2d6: if they match, close enough.
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Postby phild » Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:02 am

I think it comes down to the initial in-system jump. Part of the Astrogation skill would be about plotting a best-fit route between gas giant and ultimate destination, based on your key criteria of either fuel consumption or time.
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Postby Paladin » Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:49 pm

-processors have limits, esp on bigger ships that need more fuel quickly.
-force them to feel the weight of being in debt and NEEDING to be off in hurry
-have passengers in a rush that can't wait for fuel.
-trouble with authorities or fear of being found by bounty hunters that require faster dust off
-how long does it take to process the fuel? Do you have to constantly be flying within the gas giant or other location to load the unrefined fuel for the processor?
-Damage to the scoop/processor during combat, disrepair, referee evil, etc is always an option too. Replacing either outways the cost of buying refined fuel on multiple jumps.
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Postby Woas » Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:51 pm

Galaga wrote:Get a d12 if you want to do that?
I thought of that too. But I really like the feeling of only needing to bring two six sided dice to the game every week instead of my 8 lbs bag of dice of various sizes that other RPGs require. Nice and streamlined and if you ever find you have forgotten your dice, a quick raid of the Monopoly box is all you need. Not that bringing an extra, single d12 to the game is a huge hassle, but I thought figuring out a way to accomplish it with the normal 2d6 would be slick.
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Postby phild » Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:05 pm

Woas wrote:
Galaga wrote:I thought figuring out a way to accomplish it with the normal 2d6 would be slick.
Easy-peasy.

Red die= 1-6
Green die= 1-3=0, 4-6=6
Red + Green = 1-12

Hey presto, 1-12, equal probability distribution. It even works with dice other than merely Red and Green ;)
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Postby Woas » Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:43 pm

phild wrote:It even works with dice other than merely Red and Green ;)
What about two green dice?! :shock:

Just kidding. That's sufficiently slick. Thanks. 8)
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Postby phild » Sat Feb 14, 2009 3:56 pm

Woas wrote:
phild wrote:It even works with dice other than merely Red and Green ;)
What about two green dice?! :shock:
Hmm, good point. I've got some DC Universe dice marked with Superman and Darkseid symbols if the whole 1-3/4-6 is proving tricky :twisted:

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