Thursday, April 6, 2017

Imperial Navy: Starships

Naturally, warships make up the heart of the Imperial Navy.  So much so, that Star Wars itself is identified as much by stormtroopers and star destroyers as it is by Jedi.  In fact, I can think of few reasons one might want to play as an Imperial other than the thought of being on such a mighty engine of destruction as an Imperial dreadnought.  So, naturally, as I've worked on Psi-Wars, I've already looked pretty deeply into what sorts of ships the Imperial Navy would have, and if I'm honest, I'm pretty happy with them.

I've folded Psi-Wars so closely into the existing Spaceships line that, in fact, I can use the GURPS Spaceships line pretty easily, and I don't really have much need to make new ships!  Most of what I need, I have.

Thus, we need to look at how the Empire fights, using the ships it already has, and what holes it might still have that we need to fill.

The Navy as it Stands: Dreadnoughts and Typhoons

Thus far, the definition of the Imperial Navy has been the Empire-Class Dreadnought and Typhoon fighters.  And they're great.  Over and over again, I've been impressed by the versatility of the combination.  An Empire-Class dreadnought carries a cavernous hangar bay capable of launching squadrons of fighters, plus carting around a small army of tanks and military personnel that it can unleash on a planet.  Against heavy ships, it can bring its spinal cannon to bear, and against smaller ships, it can bring its fighters, or its secondary and tertiary batteries, to bear.  It's the largest, most dangerous ship in the galaxy (thus far) and I have a hard time seeing a problem with it.

As for starfighters, the Typhoon is probably an inferior fighter to the Starhawk, but that doesn't matter.  The Empire can kick them out in droves and overwhelm their opponent, and their versatile enough, in the many varieties I have introduced, to cover most tactical necessities.

Why would you change this winning combination?  I'll be honest, I can't think of many reasons.  First, anyone in the admiralty would want to command one these.  They represent the greatest prestige possible.  I've asked my fellow players, and they say things like "Well, but what if you wanted to send someone on a mission?" Imagine, for a moment, that you played an Imperial character, say an Imperial Space Knight, and you had been given a mission to capture some rebels.  Would you want to show up, quietly, in a private corvette, with just you, your enslaved alien smuggler and your personal assassin-bot?  Or would you want to show up in a looming, terrifying dreadnought and be ferried to the planet while flanked by imperial combat troopers?  Most people I ask that question, even if they pick the former, do smile at the latter, and I think most people in the Empire feel the same way.  A dreadnought is effective and awesome.

Some people bring up resources, but the Empire is nothing if not wastefully military.  Why not spend a cripplingly high budget on an endless warmachine, especially as that warmachine can turn around and pillage other worlds!  I find it difficult to come up with reasons for the Empire to do anything other than this.  But here's a few things I can see.

Something Friendly to the Player Scale

So, while this is dropping in March, I wrote it in January, and I asked on Discord if any GM would be willing to just hand a Star Destroyer over to a player and most said yes... but grudgingly, with much hemming and hawing about specifics.  I can't say I blame them: putting a player in charge of a dreadnought says a great deal about your campaign.  It necessarily comes with a veritable armies of mooks, and Moff Tarkin does not engage in action, so why should your officer if he has goons who can do it for him? Let's address this in two ways.

Yes, allowing a player to have access to an Empire-Class Dreadnought says something big about the campaign, but playing as the Empire already says something big about the campaign, namely that you belong to the largest, most powerful and most dangerous political entity in the Galaxy.  Your opposition is almost never bigger than you, but almost always smaller.  That your Empire-Class Dreadnought is bigger than any warship you're likely to meet during the campaign should already be a given.  Imperials do not valiantly sacrifice themselves to defeat the might of the Rebellion.  No, they're a constantly frustrated Goliath dealing with a surprisingly effective David.

The greater concern here is that they'll just send their army of minions to deal with the opposition, but if that would have worked, we wouldn't need you, a group of 300 point characters in the first place.  Your opponents are Space Knights and Smugglers and cunning Scavengers, and they keep making mince-meat of your combat troops and keeping a low enough profile that you can't just hit them from orbit. so of course you have to go down.  Remember, the Officer is himself a skilled Action hero, capable of astonishing Foresight, with skills useful even in the relatively small arena of an action scenario.  But more than this, Pulling Rank already addresses this with The Command on page 19.  This allows him to almost always have 10-15 combat troopers at his command, but given that he's dumped 20-30 points in Rank already, I don't think this is going to be a major issue, nor is it going to overwhelm the campaign, though I would caution any GM or player who chooses to go this route to realize that no ship is every really "the Officer's." It belongs to the Imperial Navy, and the Empire advances its agenda through your actions.  Throw a fit and lord it over your fellow PCs, and their political connections will almost certainly demand to have you pulled from command (of course, that sort of thing sounds very Imperial already)...

On the other hand, this creates a very binary situation, where you either allow the players to have a dreadnought, or you don't.  GMs might want, reasonably, to have more choices than this.  And they do!  Imperial Security has an excellent Corvette perfect for a player-sized group, and they even have a modest Capital Ship, if the GM wants to be generous.  But if you want players working for the Imperial Navy, it might be nice to have some smaller ships, so you can give them something with typical Imperial firepower without necessarily going all the way to a dreadnought.  But what?  The Imperial Navy rarely needs to send corvettes anywhere; it prefers to send forth armies led by champions rather than plucky groups of adventure.  We could make the case for commando ships, ships that silently and secretly transport kill teams to specific locations where they can silently do their dirty work, but this sounds more like Intelligence work than Military work, and wouldn't Intelligence fall under Imperial Security?  But on the other hand, is the Grand Admiral simply going to trust the Emperor's Hand with all of those assassins and spies?  No, I imagine the Imperial Navy has its own secretive ships, but let's hold off on some silent commando cruiser for a bit.

Strategic Variety

Players will want to see a variety of interesting opponents, and they will, via the many factions present in the Psi-Wars setting.  Even within the Empire, we have the Legacy and Mythic models of the Empire-Class dreadnought, and the Interceptor, Breaker, Storm and Assassin-models of the Typhoon fighter.  Players have a few things to deal with, though I imagine we can come up with a few more, if we were so inclined.

In the real world, navies do not have a single sort of ship.  The US Navy consists of (among others) carriers, missile cruisers, destroyers and submarines.  But these all serve different roles: missile cruisers defend the carrier from missiles, destroyers defend the carrier from submarines, submarines silently destroy enemy ships, and carriers project power onto land.  They specialize this way because this sort of specialization is necessary given the different mediums you can vector your attacks through. Psi-Wars just has space to deal with, and unless we want to add something like cloaking to represent submarines, or expand missile combat further, I can't see this sort of thing much.

Still, let's ponder some additional strategies that might be valid.  First, military transport raises some serious issues.  Yes, the Dreadnought can transport them, but it's not a dedicated transport.  If you want an honest-to-god invasion,   For that, though, we can use a Viking-Class Assault Carrier, which can land directly on a planet and offload all of its troops.  The Empire-Class dreadnought can focus on space-dominance and carry a relatively small contingent of troops, and the Viking can carry the actual invasion force.  Of course, this ship could use some small adjustments to cover the rules of how Psi-Wars really works.

But what about scouting?  Would the Empire really just leap an entire dreadnought out into the unknown?  Well, I don't see why not.  After all, the Empire is nothing if not overconfident.  Even so, it seems a waste to throw such a huge investment out into the unknown when you could send smaller feelers out first.


Here's where things began to crystallize for me.  The Imperial Navy is driven by more than military effectiveness. It also needs political dominance, not just outside of the Empire, but within the Empire.  It needs to prove that it's better than the other arms of power, but it also needs to advance the power and careers of individual admirals, at the expense of others.  If the dreadnought were the only warship in the Imperial arsenal, then it would lack prestige.  Of course, just having a warship to command is prestigious (you could be given the command of some backwater defense station), but you'd still expect to have degrees of prestige.  The Grand Admiral would likely have an utterly unique warship, but that's basically unique NPC territory so I won't bother to work it out.  Each of the Admiralty would likely have their own special ships, but I think a Mythic covers it well enough.  But what about the lower end?  Those commanders who aren't worthy of a dreadnought, but are up-and-coming?

Note that Imperial Security tries hard to step on the toes of the Imperial Navy.  The Dominion-class cruiser clearly intends to be a warship, and surely the Emperor's hand would love to argue that his security forces represent sufficient defense for the Empire that one could discard those overpriced behemoths.  The Imperial Navy would almost certainly wish to return the favor.  After all, who polices newly conquered territories?  Why, the Imperial Navy, of course!  So, does the Empire need Imperial Security? Of course not!  You could just use combat troopers, and the Imperial Navy could patrol for pirates itself!

These two ideas combine to suggest some sort of patrol corvette, but the Imperial Navy doesn't do things as small as corvettes!  So, a cruiser, a battle cruiser, at least one SM larger than the Dominion-class patrol cruiser.  This would be an anti-corvette, anti-pirate "escort" cruiser, and something the empire could send out to scout.

The Ships of the Imperial Navy

  • The Empire-Class Dreadnought
    • The Mythic model, for fleet flagships
  • The Legion-Class Planetary Assault Carrier
    • The Devastator-Model
  • The Vanquisher-Class Battle Cruiser
  • The Typhoon-Class Starfighter
    • The Interceptor
    • The Breaker/Bomber
    • The Storm
    • The Assassin
  • The Banshee-Class Dropship
  • The Corvus-Class Assault Boat
    • The Corvus-Red
    • The Corvus-Black

The Empire-Class Dreadnought

Is fine as written. See page SS3 10.

The Empire-Class Dreadnought has room for 4600 crewmen and 30,000 tons of military matériel. It requires 1700 crewmen and technicians, 40 gunners, 10 medical personnel and 10 bridge officers. It could easily afford to double these numbers to allow for some slack, especially if it takes battle damage. That means we’re looking at about 3500 crewmen, leaving us about 1100 slots for pilots and soldiers.

This gives us enough room for one mobile regiment, which consists of 3 mobile companies. Each mobile Company consists of four platoons, each of which has 4 sections of up to 10 men, a Banshee dropship for deployment on the surface of a world, and optionally up to 3 recon sections, including up to 15 Hunter grav-bikes to scout. Additionally, each mobile company has 10 CAS Brawlers, organized into two wings to support it. This results in 900 men, and 7500 tons of materiel, and is lead by a Colonel.

The remaining 200 positions are filled by up to 200 pilots/gunners; The general break down is 2 Breaker squadrons of 40 Typhoon-Betas, 4 Interceptor squadrons of 80 Typhoon-Alphas, and optionally 2 Storm squadrons of 40 Typhoon-Deltas, depending on how elite the Dreadnought is. It can only launch five squadrons per minute.

The Mythic-model Empire-Class Dreadnought has three times the hangar space and three times the habitat. That means the Mythics can carry three mobile regiment, typically headed by a general (though he’ll usually head all of the soldiers of a fleet), and 30, instead of 10, squadrons, though a Mythic can only launch 10 squadrons per minute.

The Legion-Class Super-Carrier

Use the Viking-Class Assault Carrier, from SS4 9. I changed the name only to make it sound more appropriate to the Empire. Note that in Iteration 3 I designed a “devastator” model. This is also acceptable (preferable, even)

The key thing to understand here is that a Legion-Class Super-Carrier is, first of all, three times larger than an Empire-Class Dreadnought. It also carries fifty assault regiments. Each assault regiment is composed of 4 assault companies, which consist of 4 mobile infantry platoons and their vanguards, one wing of Brawler CAS, a platoon of 3 Decimator tanks, and a platoon of 3 Thunder self-propelled artillery. That means that a Legion-Class super-carrier deploys 100,000 infantry mounted up in 20,000 vanguards, 250 Brawlers, 150 Decimators and 150 Thunders. This is a full, planetary invasion.

The point of a Legion-Class Super-Carrier is not that players try to fight the army, or even worry about the actual mass-combat scale of what it represents. Rather, when it shows up, we get the epic battle scene where capitals fall and the Empire sweeps over yet another world unless the players can kill it in orbit, or they can mount a successful resistance in a serious of exciting adventures. They’re set-pieces, targets, and background information, rather than direct opponents.

The Vanquisher-Class Battle Cruiser

The Vanquisher-Class Battle Cruiser serves three missions. First, it’s smaller, quicker design allows it to scout the outer reaches of the Empire, searching for danger, without risking a full dreadnought to the unpredictability of the politics of the Rim. Second, it acts as an escort for other naval ships, but especially Legion-Class Super Carriers, which aren’t as competent in battle as Dreadnoughts. But finally, and most importantly, the Vanquisher-Class Battle Cruiser is a response to Imperial Security’s Dominion-Class Light Cruiser; the Imperial Navy uses it to patrol its recently conquered space, to deal with pirate threats and to remind locals of their presence.

Like most imperial naval vessels, the Vanquisher sports a spacious hangar and considerable room for soldiers. The vanquisher focuses more on a space-dominance role, and trades out the Banshee-class Dropship for the Corvus-class Assault Boat, which the Vanquisher pairs with an onboard platoon of 50 combat troopers to board enemy vessels, especially pirate ships, and capture them. The Vanquisher also has enough room for a single squadron of twenty Typhoon-class fighters.

The relatively small scale of the vanquisher, with a single fighter squadron and a single platoon of soldiers and a relatively small bridge crew makes it an excellent first command for up-and-coming officers, which is how it’s often used. It’s also a great starting ship for Imperial player-characters!

Front Hull System
Hardened Diamondoid Armor (total dDR 200) ($1200M)
Major Battery (10 GJ fixed anti-particle) ($150M)
Major Battery (10 GJ fixed anti-particle) ($150M)
Secondary Battery (6 1GJ x-ray turrets; 3 40cm launchers, 150 tons of cargo) ($135M)
Multipurpose Array (Level 13) ($600M)

Central Hull System
Hardened Diamondoid Armor (total dDR 100) ($600M)
Hyperdrive ($600M)
Habitat (5 luxury cabins, 25 cabins, 40 bunkrooms, 1 ops center, 1 clinic, 1 gym, 1 briefing room, 2 minifac shops) ($30M)
Control Room (C11 computer, comm/sensor 11, and 15 control stations) ($60M)
Hangar Bay (1000 ton capacity, 200 ton launch) ($3M)
Super Fusion Reactor (four Power Points) ($1000M)

Rear Hull System
Hardened Diamondoid Armor (total dDR 100) ($600M)
Heavy Force Screen (200 or 400 dDR) ($1500M)
Super Reactionless Engines (12.5G each) ($800M)
Super Fusion Reactor (four Power Points) ($1000M)
The Vanquisher-Class battle cruiser has artificial gravity and gravitic compensation ($60M)

TL Spacecraft
11^ Vanquisher
*Hardened, plus 200 or 400 dDR from Force Screen

The Vanquisher requires a crew of 65 technicians, 10 gunners, and typically a bridge crew of 5. It usually carries two shifts in case some of the crew are killed, for a total crew of 150 and 5 bridge officers. It usually carries a single squadron of 20 Typhoon-class fighters (usually interceptors), and a single platoon of 50 men, usually with 5 Corvus-class assault boat.

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