Traveller (role-playing Game) - Starships


Traveller's rules for starship design and combat are like games unto themselves with a complex balance of ship components fitting within certain hull volumes, technology levels, and modifiers based upon characters' skills. It is complex enough to be able to generically represent most starships used in role-playing games, and flexible enough to support custom add-ons to the system. (GDW published several board games allowing Traveller space battles to be played out as games in their own right - Mayday using the Classic Traveller rules, Brilliant Lances and Battle Rider using the Traveller: The New Era rules.)

Typical Traveller starships consist of control space (i.e. one or more bridges), a central power plant, a maneuver drive for in-system travel, a jump drive for interstellar travel, and payload space (weapons, living areas, etc.). The power plant and jump drive together require significant amounts of fuel. Alternate power plants, realspace drives, and interstellar drives exist for modelling different settings.

All of this equipment is fit into an armored hull of a given volume. Starship volumes are measured in "displacement tons" (also "D-tons" or just "tons"), equal to the volume of a metric ton of liquid hydrogen, or about 14 cubic meters. This unit is used for convenience in calculating jump drive fuel usage; a ship with volume D tons using a jump-N drive uses 0.1×N×D metric tons of LH2 fuel per jump (i.e. the fuel tank is N×10% of the ship's volume).

Computer programs have been created to more effectively model and predict starship combat. The most famous case involved Douglas Lenat applying his Eurisko heuristic learning program to the scenario in the Classic Traveller adventure Trillion Credit Squadron (TCS), which contained rules for resolving very large space battles statistically. Eurisko discovered exploitable features of the starship design system that allowed it to build an unusual fleet that won the 1981 TCS national championship. This prompted GDW to change the tournament rules, but Eurisko adapted to the changes and won again in 1982. GDW threatened to cancel the tournament if Lenat entered a fleet again, so Lenat retired from competition, and GDW gave him the title "Grand Admiral" as consolation.

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