Travelling Heavy - Starships

Travelling Heavy

Risus Conversion CT

Classic Traveller® - Starships

I tried to complicate this conversion method to retain some of the technological flavor of the original classic Traveller® books, but I was quickly unhappy with that. This conversion contains only two steps: (i) ship construction points and sizes, and (ii) assigning ship system clichés; [with a footnote of the old (iii) excessively complex, highly optional, very non-Risus, just for the diehard number crunching, dice rolling, green-skinned, space-faring, techno-geek, freakazoid variant of USP for the disturbed].

I. Starship Size (Construction Points)

Starship size determines the number of construction points ("CP") the ship can use in buying dice for starship clichés during construction. All ships start with a standard 60 CP's, but larger vessels get bonus construction points due to size as shown on the table below. Ships based on stock designs can buy d6 clichés, custom ships can buy funky dice clichés as the Gamemaster sees fit. When using funky dice, ship creation points can also be thought of as the maximum number of potential dice faces (i.e. 60 CP = 10 6-sided dice, 6 10-sided dice, or 3 20-sided dice).

Conversion Method:

Divide classic Traveller® starship Hull Size by 100. This is the power of the exponential root of 2 (see the chart above if you hate exponents, have never counted in binary, or don't use old SIMM cards under your desk legs as levelers). Multiply the result by 6 to get the bonus points. Add 6. (Yes you can also divide by 10, multiply by 60, round up, or put this conversion method into a spreadsheet to prove your technical competence, remember.) The chart is always here for you.

Note: this all works out to 6 extra points above any size (c.f. Hook or Tale for a Player Characters [image that]).

II. Starship Systems (Clichés)

Starships, as produced by every race, shipyard, engineer, and owner eventually become as unique as any individual. Like player characters, all ships are defined by clichés. Starship clichés are based on a short list of general ship functions which should be fleshed out based on the technology, shipyard, purpose, tech level, law level, region of space, race, culture, owner, etc. of the ship being built, bought, found, stolen, etc. The nature and degree of each cliché identifies the ship's primary purpose as well as its character. Most stock ships follow the 4-3-2-1 cliché scheme, however a 2-2-2-2-2 cliché scheme for a well rounded workhorse is perfectly normal. Highly specialized ships tend to have few clichés, or seemingly redundant ones. Smaller ships may be limited in their entire cliché scheme by fewer dice to spend on mandatory clichés, such as Jump Drives, to even qualify as a starship rather than a system tug. In contrast, huge ships have room to build out identical, redundant systems, such as the multiple weapon batteries on a warship. For purely practical reasons there are a finite number of, essentially identical, ship systems, despite their virtually limitless origins and descriptions. These broad categories of universal starship clichés are termed Standard Ship Systems.

Clichés for starships follow the functional nature of any given ship's system. These should be elaborated while still retaining an identifiable primary function. The list of Standard Starship Systems presupposes integration of interrelated functions such as fuel and engines, interstellar travel and interstellar navigation, etc. These ship's systems clichés are each used with the requisite computer, power, control, etc. systems presumed to be integral to each cliché. So, while Flight and Avionics presumes basic exterior sensors in a single cliché, asteroid mining scanners, combat piloting weapons lock, cloaking detection, and other specially sensors of a separate and highly specialized function require a separate cliché. While it is possible to expand the description of a general system cliché and adding an extra die to focus on the primary purpose of the cliché (maybe even italicizing part of the cliché as a reminder), a separate, even redundant, cliché is far superior because the Gamemaster will recognize the heavy investment of dice in a separate, specialized starship system. Quest dice, at the Gamemaster's sole discretion, are another way of creating specialized ship systems as clichés.

1. Standard Ship Systems (Clichés)

  • Jump/Warp/FTL/Hyper Drives & Fuel

  • Thrusters/Maneuver Drive & Power Plants

  • Computers, Flight Control, Avionics, Navigation, Communication & Sensors

  • Crews, Quarters, Berths & Life Support

  • Holds, Cargo, Storage, Shops, Labs, Fuel Processing Plant, Recreation, Lounge, etc.

  • E.C.M., Cloaking & Evasive Technologies

  • Combat Defense Systems

  • Combat Weapons Systems

2. Custom Ship Systems (Funky Tech)

Starships are incredibly complex constructs, developed by a variety of species for a multitude of purposes using diverse technologies. Something as singularly unique as a starship deserves the additional complexity and mystique of Funky Dice. The Risus point system (base 60 for a 100T ship) integrates perfectly with the funky dice option. With the Gamemaster's approval funky dice can be purchased (or assigned) for any system or subsystem to reflect different technology levels, alien technologies, quality of upgrades or repairs. Role playing and dramatic license should be required to convert any starship system to funky dice, just so the players feel justified in the privileged status of owning a unique icon in space-faring history. ("In case you haven't noticed, Romulan cloaking technology is illegal in the Federation. I have ONE for sale, today only, right now, cash, non-negotiable – do you want it, or not? Did I mention it's only available in d20 increments, no refunds, no warranties, installation is your problem, this conversation never took place.")


How You Measure Up

Size Does Matter:

Ship hull size in the Risus system is the ship's exponent (i.e. bonus points divided 6). This is a fixed number for each ship upon construction. Hull size is not a cliché in itself, but it can be used by the Gamemaster to establish target numbers or roll modifiers when the hull size is relevant. For example, in a ramming action, each side could use a number of dice equal to it's size in a single-action contest to determine actual damage, the bigger ship obviously has an advantage. Or, full combat can be used to draw out the bulkhead breaching, beam ripping, depressurizing carnage of a ramming action.

It Isn't The Size, But How You Use It:

Hull size can be either an advantage, disadvantage, or both concurrently. For instance, when trying to locate a ship, the target ship's size can be used as a bonus to seeker's Sensor die roll; smaller ships being harder to find. If the hider has ECM, its size can be used as a (smaller) penalty to its ECM or cloaking roll when disappearing in plain sight. If a smaller ship is trying to hide on the hull of a larger ship, maybe the seeker's own size acts as a penalty due to minimum sensor range. Navigating an asteroid belt is certainly easier for smaller ships than for large ones – bouncing off of an asteroid is just the opposite. A small fighter may try to fly directly between two enormous destroyers in the hopes that any misses on the fighter will result in friendly fire on larger ships. Pilots have an innate affinity for new ways of this kind of "threading a needle" with all size ships.

Red Leader One:

Ships, especially smaller fighters against larger dreadnaughts, can benefit from group tactics against a single target. Normal team rules apply. Some ships are so large as to have redundant systems, allowing them to effectively use group tactics all by themselves (bullies just don't play well with others). Pilots should get the idea not to mess with these dreadnaughts of the deep: The Predator (13.2), commanded by Lord Dark Helmet; has the following weapon arrays: Pantone Fixed Forward-firing Messon Particle Cannon (3), Port HSB Laser Battery (3), Dorsal RGB Laser Battery (3), Starboard HSL Laser Battery (3), and Ventral CMYK Laser Battery (3). The Gamemaster might rule that The Predator can function as a group of 5 on forward attacks, a group of 4 against aft opponents, and a group of 3 against any side attacks – however, it's obvious that with that much fire power, the propulsion system consists of oars and sails and communications is two tin cans and a string. (Dark Helmet is probably a very short individual with severe insecurity issues that prevented him from pursing his lifelong ambition of becoming a galactic class hairdresser to the rich and famous; he is undoubtedly a poor looser). Large sized ships can also engage in similar fleet tactics by forming armadas, but they may suffer adverse effects based on size against certain opponents, and beware inappropriate clichés! (The Sixth-Sector's Hairdressers' Social Association's flagship the Hang-glider Chia-du comes to mind.)

Sample Ship Conversions

Corsair (2): Sleek, Fast, Retrofitted Antiquated Strike Vessel (4), Black Market Armament of Questionable Accuracy and Disappointing Damage (3), Self-Educated, but Semi-Loyal Crew of Ex-Convicts (2), Unstable Amateur Custom Vessel Modifications (2).

Where there is profit, there is piracy. This is the purpose of the corsair: fast, armed and just enough space to hold something of value.

Hook: All pirates are subject to immediate attack if the target can defend itself, and any form of military vessel has standing orders to purse and destroy these hounds of the trade lanes.

ADV-4-1107 Leviathan (4): Exploration Cargo Holds including Self-Sufficient Machine and Electrical Shops (4), Standard 3 Parsec Jump Drive (2), Standard 4G In-System Maneuver Drive (2), Standard Level 3 Integrated Computer, Sensor and Avionics Controls (2) Functional Long-Range Crew Quarters for 36 (2), Fuel Scoops/Refining Plant (1), Quad Missile Launcher (1), Hex Laser Battery (1), Standard Ships Boats (Shuttle, Pinnace, Launch, Fixed Wing Aircraft) (1).

Hook: To Be Determined.

Tale: Designed jointly by Bilstein Yards of Glisten (Glisten/Spinward Marches 0406) and Baraccai Technum, the Leviathan-class was developed from previous designs and primarily intended for independent cruising in undeveloped trade areas. High survivability is a prime design factor in this merchant cruiser. The vessel is semi-streamlined, allowing skimming refueling maneuvers as well as landings in types 0 and 1 atmospheres. Atmospheric landings are otherwise impossible, hence the large complement of ship's boats. Bilstein has made the design available for general sale, and fifteen have been completed (of which three have been lost), four are being built, and two are on order.

WTF86 Roid Ranger (0): Multi-directional 2G Maneuver Drive (3), Anti-Impact Repulsor Fields (4), X105IV Deep Scan/Chemical Analysis Array (3), Food, Beverage, Entertainment Package (1).

Notes: The "Roid Runner" is a small, durable short range mineral scouting vehicle. It is specialized for the mapping and exploration of asteroid fields for minerals in three-week stints. The company protects it investment of very expensive sensory and analysis equipment with impact resistant force fields and auto-pilot programs capable of literally bouncing off of large spinning mountains. Maneuverability in tight, ever changing confines is obviously mandatory for mission success. Standard grade communications, avionics, computers, electronics and mechanical systems are more than adequate for the short range needs of tagging rocks and communicating back tag locations and trajectories; and navigation is basically line-of-sight. The food (non-fermentable), drink (non-alcoholic) and entertainment packages tend to be the best found on mining colonies – still not many chemical engineers sign up for solitary confinement every3weeks out of a month to go rock hopping.

OMG Micro Mining Drone (0): Swivel Mining Laser Array (4), Burst Drive (3), Cargo Hold (2), Asteroid Belt Mineral Extraction [][][][][]. These small mining craft have a cockpit like a casket but are able to rapidly mine and transport back to their mother transport their mineral cargo. These craft are extremely short range and need another ship to serve as transport and fuel tanker. Replacing human pilots with automation is just now becoming cost effective.

OMFG Macro Ore Transport (4): Behemoth Cargo Hold (10), Low Consumption Accelerator Drive (2), 36 Drone Docking Bays (2). This huge, slow moving transport carries an enormous cadre of 36 specialized mining drones out to a mining site and serves as a tender while the drones swarm to and fro along the tagged mining the site, collecting ore and returning it to the transport's cargo hold. When filled to capacity, the tender calls back all drones to dock on its exterior hull and hauls ore and drones back to the mining colony for processing and repairs. No corner has been left uncut to make this ugly, cumbersome transport the pinnacle of tight-fisted ore mining for the corporations.

Zhodani Pinnace (0): Reliable In-System Avionics (2), Dependable Maneuver Drive (2), Convertible Cargo Hold (3), Comfortable Passenger Accommodations (3).

Zhodani Frigate (3): ZDT 5 Parsec Jump Drive (5), KMA ECM & Cipher Void Cloak (4), TL 13 Forward Facing Batteries (2), Luxury Crew Accommodations (2).

This ambassadorial transport, like many Zhodani vessels, is "unarmed" due to the zero tolerance culture of the Zhodani culture. As the vessel of choice for nobles, many contain custom modifications. Of course the elite Psion crew is almost impossible to overcome in shipboard actions which is the reason most species run from or destroy Zhodant vessels on sight.

IHAVBFAT (20): Moon-sized Planet Killing Secret Imperial Military Space Station (20).
Shieldmates {x19} (0): Short range squadron of anti-fighter interceptors (3).
Quest: Planet Busting [][][]

UHGot2B-Kidding-Me (12): ¾ Crescent Moon-sized Secret Imperial Military Base (1), Secret Fully Operational Imperial Navy Space Station (7), Secret Imperial Navy Rebel Death Trap (6).
Shieldmates {x10} (0): Short range squadron of anti-fighter interceptors (3).
Hook: You're kidding, right?

Tale: Really, you don't have a clue?

III. Universal Ship Profile aka USP-HG (Option):

Because I knew you would ask, and you were going to try it anyway, so you might as well see why this conversion method was scrapped...

At the Gamemaster's option, starship Clichés can be listed using the classic Traveller®, High Guard® version of the Universal Ship Profile ("USP"). This modified version of the USP simply assigns the number of cliché dice to each USP slot indicating the ship's rating in each of the standard High Guard® starship systems – this number of dice system replaces the original hexadecimal coded system while retaining the USP form.

"Masons, Lasers, Particle Accelerators – do I look like I care! Soldier, you get out there and fire your artillery on the enemy right now or I will personally jettison your sorry butt out the nearest airlock! Do I make myself clear! Why are you still here – I said move!"

The High Guard® ("HG") (the space navy's name for itself) uses the Universal Ship Profile ("USP") as an abbreviated identifier of all starships in headers of its communications. This format was adapted in its entirety by a very bureaucratic Travellers Aid Society. This header information is still used as the standard identifying electronic signature found in all starship communications; although it is routinely ignored or even filtered out of open ship-to-ship transmissions.

The USP does serve its primary purpose of providing an enormous amount of tactical data at a glance. This single line of text uses a fixed structured format and hexadecimal notation to minimize space. The information is structured in the following order: variable length Ship Number, variable length Ship Name, double-letter ship code, 7 single-digit maneuverability codes, 6 single-digit defensive measures codes, 5 single- digit offensive measures codes, 1 single-digit fighter squadron code, ship construction cost, and ship displacement. A USP looks something like:

0902MMIV The Leopard, Trader
FT-2300001-000002-20000-0 Mcr500.0 400 tons

Obviously the USP must be memorized in order for the details to be meaningful, but even a novice can realize that any listing for fighter squadrons means a very BIG, military ship. (Remember that a Risus USP lists the actual number of dice, which is different from the hexadecimal code as used in CT.)

HG USP Scheme (in Order):

Registration Number
Registration Name
Registration Type

Size (Tonnage Code)
Jump Distance (Parsecs)
Maneuver Speed (G Acceleration)
Power Plant Output (Code)
Computer Capability
Crew Size (Code)

Sandcasters (Code)
Meson Screen (Code)
Nuclear Dampers (Code)
Force Fields (Code)
Repulsors (Code)

Lasers (Code)
Energy Weapons (Code)
Particle Accelerators (Code)
Meson Guns (Code)
Missile Bays (Code)

Fighter Squadrons (Code)


Cost (Mega Credits)
Actual Displacement (Tons)

For Gamemaster convenience perhaps the USP system holds some appeal, but it completely guts the purpose of the Risus cliché system. Compare this Cliché version of the Falcon to the USP version of the Leopard:

MCMLXXVII Falcon, Far Trader (Size 2): Lightning Fast Warp Drive (3), Full Military Active ECM System (2), Anti-scan Secret Smugglers Cargo Bays (2), Black-market Retractable HP Laser Turrets (2), Luxurious Crew & Guest Quarters with Private Heads (1).

Now, that's a ship profile you can sink your teeth into. With the appropriate Hook & Tale to buy 2 more dice, this can arguably be the fastest ship in the quadrant.

Risus: The Anything RPG was created by S. John Ross and is Copyright ©1993-2013,2021 by Dave LeCompte

Traveller is Copyright © 2005 Far Future Enterprises. All rights reserved.