The One-Hundred Tonne Freighter

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2007

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"What we want is a fast and nimble ship with FTL capability"

The Rationale

In the HARP SF Beta forum, one comment was the lack of a relatively small starship that a group of adventuresome PCs could call home. We're talking here in terms of a fast smuggler ship capable of making the Kessel run in record time, a free trader cruising the Spinward Marches, or a transport that'll take you safely out into the black and back again.

This article isn't a conversion of the Millennium Falcon, Free Trader Beowulf, or Serenity into HARP SF. Instead, it is an attempt to create an instance of a very light freighter with, say a hundred tonnes of cargo capacity in HARP SF terms and suitable for the Tintamar universe.

What this article also lacks is any deck plans. To paraphrase McCoy, "I'm a writer, not an artist".

Have Spaceship, Will Travel

What we want is a fast and nimble ship with FTL capability, about a hundred tonnes of cargo capacity, and with enough firepower that it can hold its own against pesky starfighters.And it can't be outrageously expensive.

We start with the hull. We can be cheap and build it out of "alloy" but pay the price in terms of Quickness and Agility penalties, or we can spend the cash and use "polymetal" and avoid all those vexatious penalties. I'm taking an executive decision and saying we'll use "polymetal" for a 150-tonne hull, setting us back 3 million sols. We have no penalties, and we get a +10 stat bonus to our ship's Constitution and a base Armor bonus of 10.

Speaking of stats, we need to buy the ship's Strength, Agility, Constitution, and Quickness stats. Fast and nimble are our watchwords here, so let's have 75s in Quickness and Agility, and grab those +5 bonuses. Strength and Constitution can both be 50s and zero bonuses.

We now need to sort out "cargo" tonnage. That's not just the 100 tonnes of genuine cargo, but it's engines, fuel, bridge stations, crew quarters, shields, airlocks, ship's guns, etc., etc. From playing with my spreadsheet, we need about 330 tonnes of "cargo", so that's what we'll have.

Now recalling that "fast and nimble" are our watchwords and noting our aversion to suffering penalties, we're not going to coat the ship in layers of armor. It'll up the price tag and inflict penalties where we currently have bonuses, so that's a resounding "No" to armor on this ship.

We've now got a tough decision to make. How much acceleration do we want our ship to be capable of? 300 gees (the standard civilian acceleration) or 600 gees (standard military acceleration)? The first will cost the better part of eleven megasols; the second will cost nearly twenty-two megasols. In addition to the price, there'll be knock-on effects on power units, artificial gravity, shields, etc., required. It's a ship intended for PCs and maybe the SysOp is going to put them in serious harm's way, so we'll go for 600 gees.

To the energy calculation sheet, where I plug in the hull and cargo masses, and let the sheet compute some worst case energy needs. Using standard microfusion generators, we'll need 32 units to supply enough energy per hour to meet maximum demand. We could go for the faster output generators, but we've spent a lot of money already and we have the "cargo" tonnage to spare, so we'll take the standard units. We need fuel, so arbitrarily let's have 10 canisters per unit, so that's 320 canisters with a mass of 6.4 tonnes.

This is a ship for player-characters. The size of a party varies by gaming group, say from four to six players. In HARP SF space combat, we aim to give everyone something to do. We'll need a pilot to fly the ship, an engineer to tune the shields, a comms officer for the electronic warfare systems, and at least one gunner, probably two. That's five players usefully occupied in space combat. A sixth could be making emergency repairs, watching sensors, or acting as "commander". Let's call that six "bridge" stations and six basic crew cabins. We might want our adventurers to have the ability to take a couple of passengers aboard, so add two larger cabins and a couple of "seats" for them so they don't have to stay in their cabins when the fighting starts.

A quick glance at the spreadsheet says that we still have 240 "cargo" tonnes available, so time to deal with the fixtures and fittings. My spreadsheet does these in alphabetical order, so let's run through what we need. We need airlocks, and these should be of a reasonable size, so we'll spend ten "tonnes" of cargo tonnage/volume on a pair of sizable airlocks (to make shifting cargo viable). We need atmospheric streamlining as this ship has to be able to land on planets. A cargo hold (yes), a communications system with interplanetary capability (yes), a computer system with necessary infrastructure (yes, leaving the option open to have an AI on this craft), and damage control (yes). We aren't having decoys or drones, but we'll invest in two escape pods so that everyone can get off this ship if the worst happens. We'll have an electronic warfare system and a gravity control system capable of handling 600 gees (seven megasols, ouch!). We need a hyperspace unit (we'll take a spare), an interlock system so that we can mate the ship to other vessels, and landing gear. A magneto-grav shield isn't optional and the cost will depend on what percentage of lightspeed the vessel can finally reach. 7% of lightspeed is the maximum, so that's what we'll take.A medbay is useful; however we'll skimp here and make it a one-patient ward. Some room spent on communal areas for the crew and passengers to dine together and relax would not go amiss. This ship might be used for smuggling, so let's have five "tonnes" of secure storage for clandestine goods. A full set of sensor systems won't hurt, the hull requires "space construction" for surviving in hard vacuum, and a small workshop for the engineer to mend stuff would be useful.

We need guns, lots of guns. You'll recall that the hull tonnage is 150 tonnes. A quick lookup of the notes indicates that we can easily place a couple of Type II laser cannon weapon systems on the ship, and we're done. The spreadsheet says 106 tonnes of cargo left, so call it 100 tonnes (300 cubic meters) of normal cargo and use the remainder for ship's stores. Rounding up to the nearest megasol, the price tag is 41 million sols.

The Numbers

Now for all the game mechanics:

Ship statistics and stat bonuses are: Strength 50 (+0), Constitution 50 (+10), Agility 75 (+5) and Quickness 75 (+5).

Vehicle Availability Cost Mass Crew/Psngrs Cargo Speed/Accel Energy
Ultralight freighter Restricted 41M 480 6 +2 300 0.07c/600g 32F(320)

Using the stat bonuses, core bonuses for spacecraft and Mature technologies, and so forth, the combat-related bonuses are as follows:

Vehicle Initiative Hits Armor Shield Rating EW Rating Point Defense Maneuver Rating Weapons
Ultralight freighter +5 58 10 10 10 None 20 x2 +0 Small Laser Cannon