- EXTERNAL LINK: Traveller 5 – Small Craft List at Traveller Illustrated
- EXTERNAL LINK: Years ago, I did a small campaign with the players as the crew and owners of a 50 ton cutter. They prefered to have a small craft completely paid off instead of an in-debt starship. The modular design allowed them to do different missions by loading different modules. They spent the game running errands around a multi-sun star system (cargo, fueling starships, passengers, personal yacht, safari, etc), hired themselves out to a Broadsword for an invasion and later to the scout service on a Dosonev explorer. They jumped system a few times by paying a 50 ton cargo fee to a Trader. Has anyone else done Small Craft based games?
- EXTERNAL LINK: Man, take a pinnace or ship's boat, install a Model/2 computer in it and as much laser as you can, load the rest with either missiles or sandcasters, and then "tank up" on software, and you now have a pretty substantial threat to any "adventure class ship".
- EXTERNAL LINK: Inknstain.blogspot.com Neat Creative Work
Hunter at CotI on July 4th, 2007 at Imperial Oratories "And we hop aboard a shuttle for the ride to the Downportâ€¦" - or nearest moon, or the furthest gas giant in the system, or a research station on the edge of the Oort cloud. Many times over an adventure or campaign characters will use small craft to move about in a star system.
Small craft have many uses as ship's boats on larger vessels - indeed unstreamlined and partially streamlined starships are almost completely dependent on small craft to move cargo and passengers around. Yet small craft are largely ignored. The glamour ships - starships - occupy the attention of characters and NPCs far more than a gig or a customs cutter. But interstellar trade would be drastically curtailed by the absence of such vessels. So let's survey the standard small craft designs and look at their uses and some variants that are found in known spaceâ€¦
SHUTTLES AND TUGS 95 ton shuttles are encountered throughout known space and are used for interplanetary transport of cargo and passengers, as well as to and from orbit around main worlds. Standard TL-10 shuttles have reasonable acceleration (3-G) and can carry 43.6 tons of cargo. Most have triple turrets which can mount a variety of weaponry - almost always for self-defense, since a shuttle is a large and fragile target. Sandcasters and missiles are usually carried, although there is enough excess energy from the standard shuttle design to power 2 beam or pulse lasers.
Pure passenger versions replace the cargo space with 80 passengers in couches, while mixed passenger-cargo versions abound. A typical mixed shuttle will have 40 couches for passengers and 23.6 tons of cargo space.
Many variants exist, including rescue shuttles, medical evacuation shuttles and military transports. A few examples follow.
Some shuttles have even been converted to tourist ships for star system tours. These tourist shuttles have large viewports for maximum viewing opportunities. They have 10 double occupancy staterooms fitted to allow 18 passengers a relative degree of comfort for 3-7 day in-system tours. The remaining stateroom is reserved for 2 stewards to attend to the needs of the passengers. A galley is also fitted along with a common area.
Fuel shuttles perform fuel collection tasks at gas giants and in oceans either for parent starships or smaller starports. Their task is simply to scoop fuel and transport it back to the starship or starport for purification. Exactly the same performance as a normal shuttle, fuel shuttles give over their entire 43.6 tons of cargo space to fuel storage. Fuel scoops are fitted, increasing the shuttle cost slightly by Cr76,000.
The mining shuttle is commonly used in asteroid fields for prospecting and ore transport. Similar in performance to a normal shuttle, mining shuttles have a mining laser in the turret (sometimes two) and four staterooms fitted for long-term crew carriage. Two extra couches are fitted on the bridge for the two belters that would normally be carried.
An airlock is also fitted for the carriage of a 3dton pressurized air/raft or vehicle of similar displacement. The remaining space (23.6 tons) is given over to ore cargo bays. The small cabin is retained but is usually used for stowage of extra vac suits and other gear, effectively acting as a ship's locker. Fuel scoops are fitted in case fuel needs to be taken from local gas giants or ice deposits. A mining shuttle costs MCr 58.478 in quantity.
Another derivative of the 95 ton shuttle is the Tug. Used in many systems which have highports (primarily A and B Class), tugs are used to maneuver other starships and large components at highports and shipyards. A large 10 ton latching system allows the tug to latch onto other ships many times its size and move them - albeit slowly through space. The tug can also be used to move large objects - especially useful in shipyards moving hull sections into position. Tugs have also been known to maneuver asteroids for mining purposes.
In order to maintain its structural integrity while pushing masses far larger than itself, tugs are strengthened with an armored hull factor-3. For long missions (for instance pushing a salvaged vessel from outsystem to the primary planet) a full-sized stateroom as well as a small cabin is provided.
Modular cutters are extremely popular because of their versatility. The 50 ton cutter is rather slow (2-G acceleration) but is fitted with space in the hull for a 30 ton module. Modules may be changed out in minutes allowing for a great deal of flexibility. Since the design was first introduced by Ling Standard Products, a bewildering array of modules has been produced for various applications. The primary module types are the ATV module (carrying an ATV), a 30 ton fuel module and an open module which allows the carriage of 30 tons of cargo. Passenger modules are also popular as they carry 60 passengers. Specialist military modules include a fighter module that carries a small fighter, an armored command module for the carriage of a Planetary Assault Group HQ, a G-carrier module which holds a G-carrier or grav-tank, medivac module, electronic counter-measures module as well as many others. Other specialist non-military modules include a survey module for planetary surveys, laboratory module for scientific experiments and ground base module for the establishment of small planetary outposts. Customs cutters can be found in charted space but their slow speed limits their usefulness in this role. PINNACES
The most graceful of small craft, the 40 ton pinnace is primarily designed for transport from orbit to surface. Most pinnaces have airframe surfaces - wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers which give the pinnace an aircraft-like appearance. Capable of 5-G these spacecraft are very agile but are also rather expensive. A pinnace without airframe surfaces can carry 3.7 tons of cargo and is usually used as a fast courier for small cargo packages and passengers between surface and orbit, and between worlds in a system. Passenger versions carry 7 passengers in addition to the two crew. Pinnaces with airframes can reach a maximum speed of 5800kph in standard atmospheres but their cargo capacity is reduced to 1.7 tons. In some cases, the small craft cabin is removed to bring cargo capacity back up to 3.7 tons (or 7 passengers). Pinnaces fitted with airframes have also become the vessel of choice for customs duties because of its speed over the cutter. The pinnace is capable of catching and overtaking most vessels - in atmospheres as well as in space. It is even faster than some Imperial warships like the Patrol Cruiser. Customs pinnaces are usually armed with a couple of lasers or 3 missile racks and give over some of their cargo space to another two small cabins. Most versions of the pinnace feature retractable flight control surfaces. SLOW PINNACES
Essentially a 2-G pinnace, the slow pinnace can carry far more cargo (15.4 tons) and as such is the smallest practical cargo lighter used by merchant ships to transfer cargo from orbit to surface. Rarely seen in a passenger configuration, slow pinnaces can carry reasonable cargo loads so are used almost exclusively in this role. Like the normal pinnace, slow pinnaces can be found with or without airframes. Slow pinnaces with airframes have their cargo capacity reduced to 13.4 tons. Slow pinnaces with airframes still have remarkable performance in atmospheres, where they can reach a maximum speed of 4700kph. SHIP'S BOATS
The classic small craft for starships, the ship's boat is a fast 30 ton craft capable of 6-G but holds very little cargo - 1.8 tons. Ship's boats are primarily used for the transport VIPs and personnel from ship to surface or ship to ship. The 1.8 ton cargo space can easily be converted to hold 3 passengers. SLOW BOATS
A slow version of the ship's boat, 30 ton slow boats are cheaper and have more cargo space (7 tons) but are only capable of 3-G acceleration. Slow boats are primarily used to move small cargo packages and passengers from orbit to surface. The 1 ton missile magazine is sometimes also given over to cargo, especially if the vessel is operating in relatively safe Imperial space. In passenger configuration the slow boat can carry 14 passengers in relative comfort. LAUNCHES
A standard small craft carried on many starships and used by many starports, the launch is a slow 1-G workhorse capable of carrying more cargo (8.1 tons) than a slow boat, but at half the cost. Also used to ferry passengers, the launch can carry a maximum of 16 passengers. Launches are generally not armed because of their lack of suitability as a weapons platform. Several common variants exist. LIFEBOATS
This variant of the launch carries 16 low berths in place of cargo, providing long-term life support in emergencies. Another lifeboat version has 8 emergency low berths capable of taking 4 people each for a total of 32 people. Generally the 32-capacity lifeboat is only used by the military. The lifeboat retains the same performance characteristics as the launch. GARBAGE SCOW
Some launches are used for the most menial tasks. Very old vessels sometimes end their life as garbage scows, dumping toxic or dangerous waste into stars or gas giants. These "garbage scows" give over their entire cargo bay to carrying waste. Toxic waste is carried in specially sealed containers. GIGS
A gig is a 20ton armed and armored launch. Only used by navies, the highly agile gig is usually armed with a single beam laser and is capable of 6-g acceleration. Despite their performance characteristics, gigs are not fighters. They are used for fast transport of important personnel and small packages and are capable of defending themselves. Some gigs also have a secondary lifeboat capacity with 2 emergency low berths fitted capable of taking 8 low passengers. These models have 3 acceleration couches removed to fit in 2 emergency low berths, also taking excess cargo space. FIGHTERS
Common throughout all charted space, fighters can range in size from 8 tons to 90 tons. Standard Imperial Navy fighters range from 20 tons to 80 tons, while fighters belonging to planetary navies typically mass 15 to 50 tons. The most common fighter is a 15 ton design built throughout charted space. Cheap and easy to build, these TL-9 vessels perform routine system patrols and system sweeps and are typically found in squadrons rather than operating alone. Armament varies but typically such fighters will have a single pulse or beam laser, or three missile racks. Two variants of the 15 ton fighter are detailed below. LONG RANGE FIGHTER
Based on the standard 15 ton fighter design, long range fighters are used for long-range patrols of between 8 hours and 1 week duration. The number of crew is increased to 2 enabling each crew member to rest in rotation. These fighters have a small craft cabin and fresher fitted enabling the crew to sleep and rest. The cost of such fighters increases slightly - by Cr241,600. Fuel capacity is reduced slightly to 1.1 tons allowing for 17 days endurance instead of 30 days. AEROSPACE FIGHTER
Based on the standard 15 ton fighter design, Aerospace fighters are designed to operate in atmospheres as well as in space. They have airframe hulls - wings, vertical and horizontal stabilizers and other control surfaces and are capable of extraordinary performance in atmospheres. RUNABOUTS
The smallest spacecraft other than the 8 ton Rampart Class fighter, the runabout is used for errands that do not even justify a launch or 30 ton boat. Cheap to build and maintain, the runabout is found engaged in the most menial tasks - checking highport exteriors for meteorite damage, assisting in EVAs or transporting personnel between a highport and an orbiting shipyard. They are rarely used for journeys longer than 1 day due to the lack of a small craft cabin. Runabouts are not usually found aboard starships as they are too small to be cost-effective at carrying cargo and passengers on a regular basis. A runabout can carry 5 passengers if fitted with couches.
- Stellar Reaches #3. Article: CT Book 2 Small Craft Design
- Stellar Reaches (Issue 4 - Spring 2006) Article: Starship Datasheet: 17 Small Craft Author: Omer G.