We were down to two players again for this session of Traveller, but I wanted to continue in order to get things moving. For this session, I had planned to try out some spaceship combat, which meant a bit of railroading of events but I’d already laid the foundation for them when I provided the players with their mission profiles some weeks ago.
After leaving Neubayern, their next stop was Topas, where they had a rather flexible set of mission parameters. They were expecting possible pirate activity at the gas giant there, and had permission to engage if necessary. They had also been told at Neubayern that the government there wouldn’t be too bothered if there was to be action against the pirates.
They ensured that the crew all got a chance to get some shore leave, which improved morale, and then headed off towards Topas.
Some of the Travellers were still concerned about the strange dreams that they’d had whilst exploring the comet, and so Zanobia began her experiments to get baseline readings from the entire crew about their dreams. Even if it served no other purpose, it was at least keeping the science teams occupied and busy, though she now has the nickname of “Doctor Dream”.
At this point I gave the players an opportunity to configure their ship. The Deepnight Revelation has a number of weapon systems. It’s primary is the particle beam spinal mount, but it also has some beam laser turrets and fusion barbettes. Given that the ship is outfitted at TL15, I allowed them to take 3 advantages for each type of weapon system. They select Long Range and Resilient for each of them.
The Deepnight Revelation comes out of Jump 12 million kilometres from the gas giant at Topas, and they perform their scan. I gave them the option at this stage of coming out either with or without their transponder active – they selected to be polite and have it active. There were plenty of other ships in orbit around the gas giant, including some fuel barges that were supplying a small space port (probably type G) on the innermost moon with fuel.
As they headed inwards, they were contacted by the port authorities which identify themselves as the Hybris Trading Consortium, and demand that the Deepnight either leaves or prepares for boarding. The Deepnight acknowledges the message but does nothing else, continuing on towards the gas giant at a stately 2g acelleration.
As they get closer, they ignore more requests and their scanners detect a larger ship – a Chrysanthemium class destroyer escort called the Dark of the Moon. It is a 1,000t ship – larger than all but the fuel tankers here, but still considerably smaller than the Deepnight Revelation. It is a demilitarised vessel, probably purchased from the navy in the Spinward Marches and now turned into a pirate vessel.
The thinking of the captain of the Dark of the Moon was that this was a research vessel and wouldn’t be heavily armed, and even if it was, it would hold on on being aggressive in order not to upset the local governments who might see the Imperium coming in and shooting things up as a pretext for something bigger. This was a good enough reason for him doing something ultimately stupid given that I wanted a chance for the players to get to exercise their ship’s offensive systems without them being in much danger. Space combat is something we’ve barely done anything of in this campaign, so getting some idea as to how it works I figured was important.
The Dark of the Moon settled into a position to block the Deepnight from its refuelling run, and as they got within 50,000km of each other, sensors picked up heat blooms around the Dark of the Moon’s weapon systems. They were equipped with a couple of missile turrets, a fusion barbette and some particle barbettes. During the weapon discussions earlier, it had been decided that the PCs really wanted some particle barbettes, so they were already planning on how to take them from the destroyer.
As they approached within 25,000km (long range), the destroyer launched a salvo of six missiles. This was mostly a warning shot – the expectation was that they would probably be shot down by point defences. Indeed, five out of the six missiles were rendered inactive within a round of launch due to a good ECM roll.
At this point the Deepnight decided to open up. There was a lot of dice rolling at this point, starting with 8 fusion barbettes of which six hit, doing almost 100 damage (the destroyer only had 400). The 18 triple beam turrets were next – taking the total damage to 331. There were also plenty of criticals – nothing major, but several weapon systems were destroyed (including one particle barbette) and their drives were damaged. They very quickly surrendered.
The fight had been very brief, and very one sided. But the players now had an idea of how their weapon systems worked, how the critical hit system worked, and a little bit about sensors and electronic warfare.
They let the Dark of the Moon get to a higher orbit, then sent a security team across to take the crew off the ship and obtain the one remaining (and slightly damaged) particle barbette. They also stripped out the ship’s computer core (which the pirates had failed to wipe) and some cargo (mostly weapons). Then they let the destroyer fall into the planet’s atmosphere. The crew were allowed safe passage to the port, and the Deepnight was left very much alone to refuel and pretty do whatever it wanted.