Ship Computers, Generate Programs, and Jump Cassettes

So, I had a thought because there has been an ongoing discussion on the COTI Forum (“Citizens of the Imperium” – the official Traveller forum) regarding a bit of Classic Traveller electronics, the Jump Cassette. It part of the ongoing discussion regarding ProtoTraveller and RAW Traveller, all of which is has been informing my own internal thoughts regarding what I want my Traveller universe to look like next time around.

Building off of the other discussion, it is worth noting that “engine-wise” you could build a ship that does Jump-6 the moment you discover Jump Drive. The limit comes in to two ways – you can build ships of a limited size, and you can only build a computer of limited power.

  1. So as ship size increases, it gets “slower” with the same size drive. Rather than “slower” it is “limited to the jumpspace it can penetrate” – and the jumpspace determines how far the ship travels in the week spent there. So, an A-Drive can move a 100dton ship Jump-2, and a 200dton ship Jump-1, while a D-Drive can move a 100dton ship Jump-6 and an 800dton ship Jump-1 – at the other end of the scale, a few hundred years of development later, is the Z-Drive which can move an 800dton ship Jump-6 and a 5000dton ship Jump-2. With the “extrapolation” I talked about earlier, I moved that size up to 10,000dtons for Jump-1 with a z-Drive.
  2. At the same time as Jump Drive is invented, computers reach small size and enough power that you can fit into a ship that can use (and potentially calculate) Jump Coordinates. The limit here is that the best that they can do is Jump-2. So while you can build a 800dton hull, the biggest ship you can build that can do is 400dtons – all despite the fact that if you were able to buy and install a more powerful computer later, you could install that D-Drive on a 100dton ship and get deep enough to travel Jump-6.

Now, “computers” are one of those parts of Traveller that have been horribly and justifiably ridiculed over the years. Their sizes and capabilities are, well, based on 1970’s mainframes – the cutting edge of technology when the game was first written. Over time, “ship computer” has been retconned into including sensors and a certain amount of C3 (Command, Control, Communications) but it can still be hard to swallow some of the numbers used. They also date from the time when, yes, oh younger readers, people used cassettes to record and save data, and when computers often weren’t able to do very many things at a one time…

So a ship’s computer could be equipped with a “Generate” program, which is what allowed a Navigator (or Astrogator is you prefer) uses to calculate and “generate” the plot of the Jump route. However, especially with those “early computers” that might be the only thing the computer was able to run, no Gunnery, no Maneuver, heck maybe not even Jump itself.

Plus, the players might not even be able to afford the Generate program to start off with! The computers and programs were talking about are “enterprise-level” technology, not a laptop hooking up to a network (more like mainframes). So, what they were able to do was a buy a one-shot “Jump Cassette” that gave them one-way plotted coordinates to a single system. I haven’t checked, but I think these somewhat disappeared in MegaTraveller and Traveller: The New Era, and Mongoose Traveller, but in T5 they were back – with the ability to use them multiple times (just making the Jump more difficult each time until on the 6th use it was an automatic misjump).

I like this because it dovetails with the idea of the “Jump Rutter” – perhaps there is some way to model very, very slow calculations that don’t use the Generate program but instead involve laborious calculations with the normal computational power of the ship’s computer but sans the specific algorithms and database that the Generate program contains. It also suggests the existence of a psychic talent that allows instantaneous Jump Calculations ala the Pilgrims from Wing Commander.

Given the default anti-psionic attitudes inherent in the RAW, this creates a couple of interesting potential plot points immediately…

So, using a Generate program, creating a Jump Plot normally takes 10-60 minutes, we could simply say that going by hand, using a Jump Rutter, takes two time increments of time slower, or that it takes 6-24 hours (hmmm… I that table might mean 6-36 hours instead….) instead and is a Formidable task (an additional -6 to the roll). So, you can pay for a Jump Cassette, or pray that the Astrogator is as good as he promised when you hired him…

TTFN!

D.

 

 

 

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Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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