"Squadron" Campaigns

locarno24

Cosmic Mongoose
Has anyone ever played a campaign where the players each have a ship (of a 300-ish dTons or so) as their 'character'?
Was wondering about how a small sector fleet squadron would play during a big conflict (5th frontier war or some similar setting).

Does anyone have any experience/advice?
 

Annatar Giftbringer

Cosmic Mongoose
No, but it sounds very interesting!

I’m guessing the players will sometimes deploy and play as sophont characters as well, so they’ll probably have one each ‘proper’ character, or perhaps just pick the one that the situation needs?

If the crews are generated as normal characters, their combined skill package together with the ship’s stats should work kinda the same as a traditional character regarding skill checks etc.

If my ship has a primary gunner with gunner(turret)/3 and he’s stationed in a triple laser turret it would play out like if one character has gun combat/3, and so on.

Sounds fun, good luck and please let us know how it goes!
 
Not something I have tried , this game
https://www.fiddleback.me/transit

Is based around the concept although in it's settings the ships are AI's . So you may be able to get some ideas from it
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Well, I've never done it, but I have some idea input if you think it'll help.

First thing, I suggest that you find a source on Traveller Imperial Navy operations and how the fleets are deployed. My suggestion is 'Sector Fleet' by MJD. It's the most in-depth discussion of the Imperial Navy I've ever seen in 45 years of Traveller.
My next comments are based on the information from 'Sector Fleet'. Take it with a grain of salt if you have a different model for the IN.

1] There aren't a lot of close escorts that are deployed as squadrons. If a CE is in a battle where capital ships are present, it's just a puppy at a Hell-hound convention. Those little PA popguns aren't even gonna scrape the paint on a cruiser.
Because of this, CE's are normally deployed on patrol and convoy escort duty. A wartime convoy escort would consist of a destroyer or destroyer escort as the flag ship and perhaps 3 CE's as the sheepdogs. But those missions can get to be a real drag after two or three repetitions.

2] Destroyers and DE's [1000 to 5000 dtons] are often used as patrol assets on vital trade routes, show the flag missions, and scouts for a large fleet action. Again, with major capital ships on the field, survivability is an issue.

3] Light Cruisers [10k - 50k dtons] are the most likely vessels deployed as a whole squadron in wartime... they aren't packing the gear to go solo vs. a battle cruiser armed with a heavy 'varmint gun' spinal mount. But they're also far cheaper to produce and operate than the heavy cruisers. This means there are more squadrons of them running around.
 

locarno24

Cosmic Mongoose
Thanks for input!

Andrewmoreton said:
Not something I have tried , this game
https://www.fiddleback.me/transit

Is based around the concept although in it's settings the ships are AI's . So you may be able to get some ideas from it

I'll have a look. That sounds quite interesting - makes me think of various Ian M Banks books, which is always a good start.

Annatar Giftbringer said:
I’m guessing the players will sometimes deploy and play as sophont characters as well, so they’ll probably have one each ‘proper’ character, or perhaps just pick the one that the situation needs?

If the crews are generated as normal characters, their combined skill package together with the ship’s stats should work kinda the same as a traditional character regarding skill checks etc.

If my ship has a primary gunner with gunner(turret)/3 and he’s stationed in a triple laser turret it would play out like if one character has gun combat/3, and so on.

Sounds fun, good luck and please let us know how it goes!

Kind of. I wasn't wanting a huge roster of crew, so I was probably going to work with the way hired crew is modelled in Pirates of Drinax - that you have a supply of warm bodies from the naval Bureau Of Supplying The Wrong Stuff Late as required with DM+1 for their 'core' job and DM+0 if forced to do someone else's. Your 'captain' would be the only person I'd suggest making a full character for, unless you acquire a specific 'competent' individual whose fate is worth tracking. I hadn't been planning on including much off-ship stuff, and boarding actions would be largely done using the absract method - i.e. did the players bother allowing space specifically for an armoury and/or some quarters specifically for some marines, etc.

ottarrus said:
Well, I've never done it, but I have some idea input if you think it'll help.

First thing, I suggest that you find a source on Traveller Imperial Navy operations and how the fleets are deployed. My suggestion is 'Sector Fleet' by MJD. It's the most in-depth discussion of the Imperial Navy I've ever seen in 45 years of Traveller.
My next comments are based on the information from 'Sector Fleet'. Take it with a grain of salt if you have a different model for the IN.

1] There aren't a lot of close escorts that are deployed as squadrons. If a CE is in a battle where capital ships are present, it's just a puppy at a Hell-hound convention. Those little PA popguns aren't even gonna scrape the paint on a cruiser.
Because of this, CE's are normally deployed on patrol and convoy escort duty. A wartime convoy escort would consist of a destroyer or destroyer escort as the flag ship and perhaps 3 CE's as the sheepdogs. But those missions can get to be a real drag after two or three repetitions.

2] Destroyers and DE's [1000 to 5000 dtons] are often used as patrol assets on vital trade routes, show the flag missions, and scouts for a large fleet action. Again, with major capital ships on the field, survivability is an issue.

3] Light Cruisers [10k - 50k dtons] are the most likely vessels deployed as a whole squadron in wartime... they aren't packing the gear to go solo vs. a battle cruiser armed with a heavy 'varmint gun' spinal mount. But they're also far cheaper to produce and operate than the heavy cruisers. This means there are more squadrons of them running around.

I think I've read the MGT version of sector fleet; as noted it's got a lot of good stuff in there.
My thoughts was around a subsector fleet precisely becuase it tends to be built at TL12-13 and have a lot of wierd and wonderful local designs as well as the odd decomissioned imperial fleet ship, so there's a lot more scope for players to design their own ships (which largely replaces character creation) but still leaves room for a suitably gleeful reaction at being assigned higher TL toys - if, say, the squadron was supplied a few containers of ASM-62s from the local imperial fleet depot for a critical mission; a launcher suddenly being loaded with TL15 advanced missiles instead of TL12 standard rounds is likely to lead to a very happy player....

And yes, they would not be going into a battleline against kilodton imperial capital ships. The sight of anything with spinal mounts should provoke the reaction "run away!!!!!"

I was seeing them as either a scoutron; yes, occasional escort duty (attached to someone else depending on the size of convoy) but also poking around systems in no-mans land, deploying probe drones and mines, tracking down and jumping supply convoys, maybe bushwhacking fuelling launches and deploying commando teams if they have appropriate atmospheric capability.

Obviously there's the potential if a campaign runs on long enough to get 'promoted' and the party get re-equipped with heavier ships that can actually achieve something on a battlefield.
 

Annatar Giftbringer

Cosmic Mongoose
Aye, of course every crew member doesn’t need full stats, just the relevant ones. How good driver the engineer is on his spare time is irrelevant, but his DM when fixing that reactor leak is highly relevant!
 

locarno24

Cosmic Mongoose
Andrewmoreton said:
Not something I have tried , this game
https://www.fiddleback.me/transit

Is based around the concept although in it's settings the ships are AI's . So you may be able to get some ideas from it

Had a look - looks rather interesting, though I'm not sure I want to grab a brand new system. The idea that the ships are AI is quite workable in Traveller, too, with sufficient automation, though, making crew a nice-to-have rather than something mandatory.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Okay, so what you're looking at is a 'task group' [in USN terms] type game?
In USN terminology, a task group is a grouping of ships [of whatever type or class] that are detached from their formal organizations ['X Fleet' and 'Y Squadron'] for the purpose of undertaking a given mission or series of missions. Once those missions are accomplished, the group breaks up and is available for reassignment.
For example, INS Saburo is a Destroyer Escort assigned to the 5th Destroyer Squadron of the 213th Spinward Marches Fleet. She is detached from her squadron and ordered to Task Group Samech with the mission of escorting a vital convoy of mission critical supplies from Rhylenor to Regina. She spends several months with TG-Samesh until she arrives at Regina. At this point TG-Samesh breaks up, and INS Saburo is available for assignment. She goes 'back to her squadron' administratively, even if the rest of her squadron has been fighting pitched battles at Efate the entire time she was on escort work.

As for character statistics, the Naval Campaign Sourcebook from 'Element-class Cruisers' might be helpful. Your ship's crew isn't detailed as NPCs unless it's needed for an adventure plot. They devolve into several Crew Efficiency Values based on ship division [Gunnery, Engineering, Command, etc.]
 

paltrysum

Cosmic Mongoose
locarno24 said:
Has anyone ever played a campaign where the players each have a ship (of a 300-ish dTons or so) as their 'character'?
Was wondering about how a small sector fleet squadron would play during a big conflict (5th frontier war or some similar setting).

Does anyone have any experience/advice?

Lots of good advice here. Rules-wise, I have two recommendations:
  • MindJammer, for which there is a Traveller version.
  • The upcoming Robot Handbook, which not only provides guidance on how to make your ship’s computer into a “brain” of sorts, but also how to create avatars of the ship, so your ship can go walking around in Android form when needed, a la Iain Banks’ Culture universe, which you mentioned.
 

feld

Banded Mongoose
OK this is a little esoteric and your mileage may vary but this might help.
1. There is a Modiphius Star Trek Adventures sourcebook, The Command Division Sourcebook, which has a short section on what they call "Admiralty Campaigns". It gives a few pointers on what kinds of characters and missions might be encountered roleplaying an Admiral and their staff. Probably not worth it if you don't already own the book but worth a glance if you do.
2. It occurred to me that, as a GM, it might become a challenge to come up with interesting random encounters/events/stuff that happens to ships. I'm not aware of an RPG product that really doubles down on the day to day logistic, personnel, material, and operational matters that clutter up naval operations day to day. Prepping a table of "stuff that happens to warships" might be a very useful thing to do but could be a challenge if you don't have naval/military experience or if you have trouble coming up with stuff that's not repetitive. To that end you might find the following real world naval things inspirational:
US Navy World War 2 War Damage Reports:
https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/w/war-damage-reports.html
These are US Navy declassified after-action technical reports detailing damage. They are DETAILED but can be skimmed to get an idea of all the stuff that can go wrong when weapons start hitting complex machines operating in a hostile environment with people in them. They might be a source of inspiration for novel battle damage or equipment accident scenarios.

For "day to day" stuff during wartime the best "condensed" (he says of a FIVE VOLUME HISTORY BOOK) is the Royal Navy's History of the Great War Naval Operations.
https://www.naval-history.net/WW1Book-RN1a.htm
I'm not saying read the whole thing but skim or just pick a place at random and just read a few pages of the "boring parts". This might give you intriguing ideas of what warships do when they're not actively killing each other.
 
Useful research may be the Hornblower books or other 18th/19th century sailing navy books as after the invention of the Telegram and Radio you never get the same cut off from higher command as in Traveller.
Particularly if going with small ships I would avoid the 5th Frontier war and instead go with the New Era setting(Heresy) or frontier anti-piracy patrols where small ships can make a difference and are not going to be subordinate to a nearby heavy squadron and instead be operating on their own,

I would also specialise ships as much as possible so one player commands a Destroyer escort or other gun ship, another has Patrol carrier , another a marine assault ship , maybe a logistics or Picket ship .
Also plan on what to do if the squadron splits as that may well make sense .
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
In addition to Age of Sail research, I might also suggest reading about actions of destroyers and corvettes in the Second Battle of the North Atlantic in World War Two generally

Two books that I highly recommend specifically about 'small ship' operations during wartime:

- 'Choices Under Fire: The Moral Dimension of World War 2', by Micheal Bess, @2006 Knopf
- 'Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors' by James Hornfischer, @2004 Bantam

The last book details the extraordinary story of Taffy 3, a flotilla of light carriers, destroyers and destroyer escorts, against a Japanese force literally 10 times its weight in tonnage and far more in firepower off the island of Samar in the Philippines. I recommend this book to ANY Traveller player who is interested in naval campaigns at all.
 
paltrysum said:
Or Master and Commander!
Having read both Master and Commander as well as a biography of Admiral Cochrane, I did not bother reading any further books in that series as the first was basically Admiral Cochrane's early carreer with the name changed. I prefer authors to write honest biographies or fiction not mislabled biographies
 

paltrysum

Cosmic Mongoose
Andrewmoreton said:
Having read both Master and Commander as well as a biography of Admiral Cochrane, I did not bother reading any further books in that series as the first was basically Admiral Cochrane's early carreer with the name changed. I prefer authors to write honest biographies or fiction not mislabled biographies

How interesting. I did not know that. I've only read the first two books, but a good friend of mine has read (and enjoyed) most of the series. I think I have a few more on loan from him somewhere. Regardless of the sanctity of the source material, the first two were good reading and inspiring for Traveller in some ways. I cribbed a few ideas from M&C when writing Naval Adventure 4.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
Condottiere said:
There are not that many archetypes you can plagiarize or base your characters on.
Sure there are, Condo!
Just look at the cast of characters in 'Mister Roberts' or 'The Caine Mutiny'. How about the characters in 'The Hunt for Red October'? A great many of these characters don't fit the archetypes found in the Age of Sail but would still fit in a Traveller campaign just fine.
My point here is that there are similarities to the Napoleonic Age of Sail in Traveller but let's not carry that too far. The sophonts of the Imperial Navy are closer to technicians in combat than the 'hearts of oak' of the Hornblower novels.
 

Condottiere

Emperor Mongoose
Since the days of my youth, my reading time has contracted, not counting audio dramatizations.

However, the Dungeons and Dragonesque approach to story arcs tend to have the protagonist progress from promising Midshipman to action packed commander to brilliant admiral, bravery warring with innovation.

Nelson seems to have the devil's own luck, balanced by personal sacrifices, and at the right place at the right time, while Cochrane is like the perennial outsider, who may have lived too long.

This is backed by the culture of aggressiveness, and probably the reason the era is that popular.

I think the previous era where naval characters become interesting would be privateers and pirates.

The modern era, we know too much about naval commanders and their personalities.
 

ottarrus

Cosmic Mongoose
I see your point, Condo, about real-life commanders. Although, I must say that lives of such combat technicians as Charlie Lockwood and actor Jimmy Stewart would make AWESOME Traveller character stories. I do see the difficulty in re-writing historical figures into fiction, especially in the modern [post WWI/Great War] era. Every single 'great commander' that we have extensive biographies about has some really nasty personal defects; why in just WWII we have MacArthur's ambition, Marshall's pettiness, Patton's vainglory, Montgomery's jealousy... That's not even getting into the more corporatized environment of modern Departments and Ministries of Defense.

But I still maintain that we can do better than the 'Honor Harrington' Hornblower in SPAAACCEEE! theme, and post World War 2 fiction is loaded with character studies and mannerisms that would entertain most Traveller PCs.
 
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