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Month Index: January, 1995

From:     Michael Sandy <mehawk@?????.?????.com>
Date:     Sun, 8 Jan 95 00:50 PST
Subject:  Re: New ship ideas and fleet tactics...
I was thinking, what if there were a sphere where a ship's air supply
was comparitively much less, so journeys with large crews were a lot
more difficult.  Trade would be done by either lightly manned ships,
in short hops between small asteroid port which had air, or in the company
of one or more of the following ship types:

Air Ship.
Air Bag has AC 15, saves as thin cloth.
Inside the air bag is the helm, 150' from the cloth 'hull'.
The ship is composed of a hermeticly sealable helm, an air pumping fan t
typically operated by mindless undead for their endurance, and a set of
huge air bag which the Air Ship erects around itself.  The ship has virtually
no use in combat, is has maneuverability F or worse, no weapons can be mounted
on its inflated exterior, and only the helmsman can see what is happening
around the ship.  Ingenious characters could come up with interesting
desperation strategies for those times when they need to commit an Air ship.
An Air Ship carries at least 10 times as much as a normal sized ship, so it can
replenish that many ship's air, typically by merging atmospheres and then
mixing the Air Ship's atmosphere with the air in the air bags.  A small
factor of note, a sphere of air 300' across masses close to 500 tons.  Of
course, the Neogi Death Spider has an atmosphere on that order of magnitude

The Trellis, a.k.a. converted luxury liner.  This ship is designed to
comfortably transport dignitaries from one planet to another.  To that end
its deck is largely composed of gardens, complete with ever full fountain.
The ship's wings are grape vines extending from a trellis.  The state rooms
are well appointed if fairly small, and musicians or other entertainers
serve as part of the crew, entertainers during the voyage and loaders and
maintenance crew otherwise.  More recently, an Admiral was so taken with the
vessal that he 'bought' 'requisitioned', 'confisticated' from its previous
owner to serve as his command center.  One result was the extended range of
the whole fleet as its ships regularly docked with the Trellis for Captains'
dinners and strategy discussion.  The Trellis is ridiculously expensive for
its actual military abilities, because so much has been put into making it
a luxury vessal.  Rare plants, animals, gems, flowers from dozens of worlds
abound in the carefully tended 4 level bi gravity garden, (two level per
The Trellis can fully cleanse its atmosphere every two days, or provide
clean air for 100 people, depending on how you want to calculate it.  Give
or take some fudging and adjusting for other campaigns.

After thinking about these ships I started thinking about how large numbers
of ships operate together in Wild Space.  Of important was that they didn't
get separated every time a ship encountered some piece of rock, or a scouting
enemy vessal.  I think forcing ships which may be heading  in similar
direction to come to a dead stellar halt is a tad bogus, much better to
average the velocities and mass.  That way you can have dramatic chases and
running fights instead of, "Well, at this rate we will successfully make
planetfall in 45 years unless we manage to shake our pursuers.  I know, will
dodge behind that moon we noticed last year, we will be close enough to
try that in only 4 or 5 years!"

Under the current system, I'd go with a pyramid formation with either a
4 or 3 side base.  If the proper spacing is maintained, any ship which
drops out of spelljamming speed will cause all the ships behind it to
do so also. The outer layer(s) should be the best ships and the innermost
would contain those ships which either aren't good in void space combat or
must be protected for some other reason.

Another formation works well for escort duty.  One ship can escort up to
5 by flying in the mouth of the ring of escorted ships.  If any one of
them is attacked its protector will stop with it.  The escorting ship would
have the highest SR and pilot levels of the group of course.

SR and maneuverability don't have much effect on actuall combat as they
do on determining whether combat takes place.  If all you have is shuttle
pilots, 2 levels mages with maybe the NWP Spelljamming with max possible
S and you are facing a pirate raider with an SR of 6+ it may hit you,
loot you, and be gone before the escort arrives.  If the fleet has a mix
of speed types, the scouts which discover the enemy fleet must determine
whether the fleet should fight or flee and advise the slower ships behind
them quickly.  If the fleet wishes to force an engagement it can send scouts
around the enemy to pin it down, while having the slower portion of the fleet
_Spelljam_ around to hit the other side of the enemy fleet.  Having the
front rank of ships be grapplers for the slower ships to come up and help
on could work.

In general, the starting formation of any wildspace combat is going to be
very loose.  Unless a fleet can position itself at a dead stop directly
in the path of an enemy fleet with enough time to concentrate itself
the battle will start with widely separated ship to ship actions.

The other major concern in how heavily loaded with troops the ships are.
The range of a Spelljamming ship is proportional to its mass divided by
its air breathing crew complement.  The range of a fleet, unless it
exchanges air frequently, is determined by that of its worst ship.  Imagine
a huge fleet, with loaded troop transports, on a months voyage to seize
a critical air asteroid that is the only air source for many days, and
some of the nearer sources are hard to find.  Imagine that asteroids
valient defenders, hopelessly outnumbered, taking 4 SR 10 fast ships and
forcing that huge fleet to slow to a crawl, the air going bad.  Imagine
the desparate captains, their air going bad, finally getting to the goal
asteroid only to find poison gas was released in the air just in time for
their arrival.  Several months worth of lucrative salvage and the asteroid
is the proud owner of a huge fleet, lacking only crash pilot training
program for anyone with even a flicker of magical ability.

One way to make piracy work is to work close to an air supply and have a
very large crew of desperados, malcontents, low skilled fighters who can't
succeed elsewhere and have a high casualty rate and a truly skilled pilot
and captain.  Unless the merchant travel in a convoy they will likely
be heavily outnumbered.  Extra guards is so much cargo space and so much
less range.  Most crews don't like pushing trips close to the air margin and
will mutiny or charge more depending on when such and announcement is

Most space combats, simply because of the difficulties of locating your
opponents will take place in or around a gravity well of some significance,
over a port, a marshalling yard a critical resource.

One thing that makes deep space combat at all possible is that fleets typically
run with their lights on.  Individual ships can run dark like a smuggler, or
blightly lit, but fleet to maintain formation and communicate with itself needs
constant visible tracking.  A fleet commander could say, run dark and proceed
separately to our destination and attack at H-Hour such and such, but
new intelligence could be acquired magically and sent to the Admiral and
he'd be unable to act on it.  Likewise, other special purpose fleet ships
might be destroyed away from their escorts or unable to help the fleet on its
Another fleet ship that is unlikely to be risked in close combat is the
communications and navigation ship, with huge mirrors, telescopes, crystal
balls, signal flares (aided by Pyrotechnics spells) Psionics, Planetary
Locators, Portal locators and generators.
Likewise, ships whose primary purpose is takeoff and landing will be held
back while wild space combat ships bear the brunt of wild space combat.
When nearing planetfall a few pilots may be shifted around to that the
landing ships can do a quick in and out with the rest of the fleet keeping
them free from being harassed by enemy ships.

Michael Sandy
ps:  What is the largest number of ships in combat have you ever dealt
with, whether fighting it out or simply trying to figure out who won and

Previous Message: Re: Spell: Spacer's Fireball
Next Message: Nilespace recent history
Month Index: January, 1995

SubjectFromDate (UTC)
New ship ideas and fleet tactics...    Michael Sandy    08 Jan 1995 08:50:00
Re: New ship ideas and fleet tactics...    Michael Sandy    13 Jan 1995 22:33:00
Re: New ship ideas and fleet tactics...    Michael Sandy    15 Jan 1995 20:31:00

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