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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Design Within The Background

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Part of game design is trying to stay "true" to the design concepts.

As an example we have the Omega Octant. Within the Omega Octant we have empires that have technologies that are very different in how they operate from the more homogenous Alpha Octant Empires (the Federation, Klingons, etc.). As a general rule, I will do my best to make sure that anything that is done for those Empires (and the ones that appeared in Magellanic Cloud and the various "simulator" races) is kept consistent with their technology.

This is not often easy.

I will cheerfully admit, in all honesty, that it would be far easier to simply give technology to various empires that they lack in order to avoid having to deal with the things that make them "different". Some have suggested that technologies and background items that make a given empire too difficult to operate should, indeed, be simply thrown out.

Take for example the Chlorophons. This is the "tree race" (sentient trees). There is only one Chlorophon (or "Phon") in any given Chlorophon ship. The ships are largely crewed by a race called "keepers" who are evolved to be completely dependent on the Phons (the only food they can eat is sap excreted by the Phons). If separated for too long a time from the Phons, a keeper will simply waste away and die.

The upshot is that there are no keeper "fighter pilots", and Phons are too big to man PFs. So obviously there can be no Phon Fighters or PFs (the rules say so in point of fact), and there are real questions about whether the Phons would employ large landing forces of Keepers (since they will normally not risk Keepers even to operate admin shuttles). This last makes the concept of Keepers operating freighters largely unworkable. Too much risk involved.

So the obvious solution it to throw the background rules out and "emancipate the Keepers". This has been proposed.

For myself, I op to turn to the existing rules.

Remote controlled fighters exist. There is no reason the Chlorophons could not have remote controlled fighters (standard size ones, Heavy size twos, Medium Bombers, and Heavy Bombers) as part of their planetary defenses. Sure, they could not operate them from carriers, but a full stable of Cholorphon fighters and bombers could be developed as part of their planetary defenses. A whole Chlorophon world could have plenty of Chlorophons who never had the desire to go "A-VIKING" (to borrow a phrase) but that would be perfectly willing and able to take charge of a remotely controlled fighter shuttle to defend the planet, or colony. Having such frees up ships to help defend "The Association".

The same thing could be extended to Gunboats (PFs), limiting them to planetary defense, as an outgrowth of "Death-Rider" technology (K7.0). Only the Phons would need to do this, so no one else ever did. Only the Phon's went that far. Again you have an otherwise sedentary Phon controlling the boat from the planet's surface, but due to their size they might have Keeper crews to do repairs and defend them being boarded. (You are going to have the internal volume of a normal gunboat that a crew would occupy in any case simply to do maintenance and replace worn out systems, so you are going to have to defend it from attack).

The same thing can be extended to a few freighters as an outgrowth of Suicide Freighters, but these being well away from planets would be controlled by the escort, and would thus be limited to pretty much nothing more than speed changes and "self-destruct" to avoid capture. They could not be "armed". The problem with having them armed (given how much more complicated running them would be compared to an admin shuttle) is that very clearly a single Phon could not operate the weapons and fire control of his own ship and monitor the weapons and fire control of another unit (otherwise, in simple, their admin shuttles WOULD be armed, and they are not).

Most important Phon cargoes are probably moved by tugs as with other races, and it would not be difficult to design a Phon Tug and pods for that purpose. But armed freighters are pretty much not going to be in Phon Service.

The exception would be Mercenaries. There CAN be a Phon Carrier that operated mercenary fighters, there could be a Phon PFT that operated mercenary PFs (perhaps even Phon PFs manned by Mercenary crews), there could be phon Troop Transports that carried Mercenary Battalions.

The trick is not to be blinded by what you are comfortable with, but to look at the technology and the rules available and take it where you can go, working with the empire to keep its own unique characteristics intact, not simply jettison them the moment they keep you from doing something you want to do.