Review: Referee's Aid 7 - Type R Merchant


Emperor Mongoose
The new series of ebooks has advanced to the venerable Type R Merchant, lovingly nicknamed the 'Fat Trader'. The booklet itself follows the same pattern as it's predecessors - the first part of the book gives background/source material, followed by sample operational information, deckplan, ship-walkthrough and some sample ship background material.

Other things also follow through - the low price of $2.99 for the supplement, the lifting of nearly all illustrations from the core rule book, and the same semi-res (not sure if it's low, and it's definitely not high) 3D deckplan layout.

Some new concepts/background material on freight handling are introduced here. First there is talk of 'specialist loading cradles' for ships that can auto-unload a ship, "many ships can be turned around in little more time than they take to get in and out of the cradle." There's additional mention of an overhead crane/gantry system to move cargo containers around inside the ship, "handlerbots" (prevalent at class C ports), and then having to use the slower internal crane at D and E ports. An assumption is that a "handlerbot" is a grav-capable piece of equipment, and it's already stated that it's a fully-automated piece of equipment. There is mention of cargo tie-downs for containers (1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100ton sized) and other cargo. Similar to what was in Firefly there is mention of small cargo mover that some ships purchase (Cr75,000) that also has the ability to move the container. The description listed later on indicates that this cargo vehicle is also called a handlerbot. There's nearly half a page background on containers in the book talking about various features and functionality. It's not super-detailed, but it's all interesting.

The next page is dedicated to speculative trade. The topics jump around pretty quickly, with no concept going much more than a paragraph. Most of it is pretty well known or discussed elsewhere (buy low, sell high, speculative trade, selling illegal goods, etc).

After the section on trade there's about two and a half pages going into more detail about the workings of the ship and the cargo holds, operational information nuggets, variations on the normal configuration (such as tankers) and a couple of paragraphs on converting the cargo hold to carry more passengers or for specialized missions, like science or whatnot. It's stated that some ships travel with holds depressurized to reduce the load on the ship's environment systems - except that there should be little load on them if nobody is going in/out of the bay. It does make more sense to keep them depressurized for security - except that means the containers and such are travelling in a vacuum (and unheated one at that) and we have absolutely no data on how well the containers can handle that environment for long periods.

Finally! A location of the mysterious third hardpoint! According to the explanation given, the two hardpoints (port and starboard) can take energy-based weapons but not any sort of weapon that requires ammunition as the standard designs have no provision for magazines. The third hardpoint is located exactly where the launch is carried. Which begs the question, if that is the case, is there really a hardpoint there? This is the first example I have heard of where an empty hardpoint is also used as an airlock/external craft docking clamp.

There's also some interesting verbiage regarding ammunition as a whole. CT missed the boat when it came to talking about the actual workings of the missile launcher. Just how many missiles at ready did a turret carry? Was it just one in the pipe? Or could you also store additional ones below in the hardpoint tonnage? This question has vexed many a player and also has generated a LOT of commentary over the various versions, including MGT's. Dougherty states clearly, Reloading is rather rare for most ships; a typical missile launcher carried one in launch position and two more ready to be autoloaded, which is plenty. So the answer to the perenial question, how to beat a Sicilain, err, I mean how many missiles are carried on-mount is canonically answered - three. The only other question raised here is the "two more ready to be autoloaded". Which, in my mind at least, means they aren't set up in a feed system. Of course, one could argue that since there is no adjacent magazine then of course they'd have to be manually loaded (from the two at ready in the hardpoint). I guess it would get rather crowded in there with a triple missile launcher in the turret and six missiles awaiting loading.

There's a short section on having players using the Type-R as their preferred means of campaign transport, but it's only about 1/3rd of a page in length and it's really not that useful of information to most players (too much success hauling cargo can ruin the referee's continual attempt to reduce the amount of gold they have earned). There's talk of giving them a 'very old' ship that requires more maintenance work (and costs) - except the rules really don't differentiate new from old as far as your maintenance costs go.

The last three sections are about operational costs, the 3D deckplan layout and explanation of the various ships environments and finally three sample ship descriptions. It's nice that some of the numbers have been broken out for you and how much it costs for X, while you can expect to make Y in return. Though some of the numbers are very useful (fuel costs Cr500/100). There is mention of the included low berths that the technology is pretty standard and freezing/revival is done by whoever has some medical training. And basically if you have complications or die, well, you shouldn't have been cheap and travelled in a low berth.

I've complained before and I'll complain again. The graphics are terrible quality. While the 3d res version is useful, zooming in just blurs things too much. The artwork is recycled low-res imagery from the core rulebook, and crammed onto the same page as the 3d deckplan is the one from the book. Though on this one "section 9. Engenering" is a type that made it through editing.

With the other systems, like the cargo deck, getting additional information and detail, why didn't the escape capsules get something similar? They are woefully ill explained and many designs don't even have them included. In the very first paragraph we get "The ship has one 20-ton launch and a full set of escape pods." And then... nothing. The design actually puts a pair of escape pods on the lower deck near engineering and escape pods in both port/starboard areas. Heck they even have dedicated escape pods in the crew-only section! Kind of what you'd expect from emergency equipment, but one would also (hopefully) expect more on their operation.

MGT is heading in the right direction with these supplements, but they consistently seem to miss the mark on some of the little things. While they are pretty inexpensive at $2.99 ea (for the ships at least), trying to cram all four deck plan illustrations on a single page makes no sense because there isn't a restriction on length. And if there were it would be very easy to get rid of easily two pages of filler illustrations that really do nothing for the book as a whole.

For the price it's definitely worth adding to your collection. With just a little more effort and thought they could easily put out a much better product. I guess the next real test is going to be the subsidized liner that we should be seeing shortly. I have high expectations, but sadly not much hope.
Grat review, very useful. I hope Mongose do one of these for the Far Trader. It's by far my favourite of the standard designs as a PC ship.

Simon Hibbs
simonh said:
Grat review, very useful. I hope Mongose do one of these for the Far Trader. It's by far my favourite of the standard designs as a PC ship.
Referee's Aid 3 covers the Type A and the A2 variant.
alex_greene said:
simonh said:
Grat review, very useful. I hope Mongose do one of these for the Far Trader. It's by far my favourite of the standard designs as a PC ship.
Referee's Aid 3 covers the Type A and the A2 variant.

It's not the Princess Marava you were looking for.
Personally I never use the Mongoose deckplans for the Free Traders, Far Traders, Lab Ships and Scouts. I use deckplans from other sources since I find the Mongoose versions to be... well, they suck.

I think they should redesign most of their deckplans and release them as stand alone PDFs. They had the opportunity to do this with the Referee's Aids but just released the same poorly laid out designs... But look! It's in 3D!

I won't even get into Merchants and Cruisers that has deckplans that range from 'Starship architect from Regina U' (Gishiash Class Scout) to 'I'm 14 years old and I just learned CAD last week' (Escort Carrier). Seriously... How could anyone look at the deckplans for the Command Boat and say, "This is good, take it to print."?