Monday, March 13, 2023

Traveller: External Cargo

There has been a fairly energetic discussion on external cargo for starships over on COTI. While the rules do not specifically say one way or the other, and as ship drives are volume and not mass-based, you would assume that it was possible. However, I am of the "not in my TU" camp. Even though the jump drive was originally a jump bubble, I also assumed it took into account the ship. Later versions of Traveller of course have at least 3 jump technologies: the original bubble (which really implies that the jump drive should be in the center of the ship), jump plates which cover the ship but extend the field a bit beyond the hull, and a jump grid, built into the ship hull itself. Obvious to me at least, the second two options do not allow for an external cargo. 

Where the interesting part lies is in the jump bubble. If you allow an external cargo pod of sorts, you are shifting the volume of the ship from 100% internal to a combination of internal and external. Obviously, we need multiple stats for this ship: no external cargo, then cargo by volume. Still easy. 

However, for me it just does not feel right. Except for that odd jump net in Supplement 9, you never see interstellar ships with external cargo. Additionally, jump space is deadly. 

On the pro-external cargo, there is nothing really that I recall in the rules saying you can't do this. It frees up space by essentially giving you a lot more cargo space so that your ship can be mostly engines and fuel. There is a certain flexibility in that approach.

However - for me, space is dangerous. Those cargo containers are now outside the ship, subject to all the inherent dangers: vacuum, radiation, micro-meteorites, the random space whale...

And it is not free. Internal cargo space is free - it is left-over space after everything else is added in. For an external cargo bay, or set of bays, you will need appropriate clamps, the correct cargo container that is space-worthy, and accept the inability to check on the cargo in jump. 

For me, this would really only work for ships and external cargo pods that are designed to work together. I would assume a standardized set of pods, and also assume this is only going to work for transit between systems that have the infrastructure to remove and add the pods back on. For example, one of the 0-Hr kickstarters had a huge cargo ship, which I really want to use. For this, each of the pods are pretty big - 6 decks. It also has a crew of 100, and without some very, very heavy machinery, the NERO class cargo ship is not mounting or unmounting those cargo pods. This ship is about 62,000 dTons. 

For intents, they are really part of the hull as they have hull-armor for the bays. But in theory, they can come off. And used for a basic colony if nothing else!

Another example of this is the Element Class Cruisers: they have various pods that can be fitted on. At a Naval station as these things are huge. But they are external pods such as a missile or ECM pod. It gives some flexibility to the missions. 

In the end, I would not allow external cargo for ships that were not designed specifically for that, and I would also have the cargo pods be pretty expensive as they need a lot more requirements than a TEU standard cargo box you can slide into an environmentally friendly cargo bay. I'd also possibly give negative DMs for piloting and even navigation unless they took extra time. As each load could differ. Though as Traveller is volume-based, it can easily be argued that would not make a difference. And I'd also make sure you have a computer large enough to handle the largest load, though technically, I think an unloaded ship, having longer jump legs, would actually require the more powerful computer! But I think I'd have to make additional software to handle the variable ship parameters.

I just don't want someone to strap a big crate on top of their Scout ship and call it a day!

No comments: