Friday, October 11, 2019

Programmin' Part Two

Last year when I wrote the post Programmin'

a commenter said this:
Hmm, maybe allow players to make programming throws to optimize the existing code and reduce it's size?
Yes, absolutely!
Tell me again how your MacBook can run a starship. Cuz' I'm not buying it.

The run-of-the-mill Type A Free Trader (or any of the CT 'basic' starships, really) has very limited computing power. Computers are classed by Models; each Model has a rating for CPU and Storage capacity, abstracted into Slots. Each program has a Space rating which is the number of Slots it takes up, whether in CPU or Storage.

The Model/1 aboard a Type-A has six spaces (2 in CPU, 4 in Storage) so we could fit in:

Bare minimum software to just run the ship, let's call this the Basic Group.
  • Maneuver (1) to move the ship
  • Jump-X (1) to Jump. Duh.
  • Navigation (1) to control the Jump.
  • Launch (1) to operate the Countermeasures
  • Anti-Hijack [I call it Security] (1)
  • Auto/Evade (1) to evade, of course.
After that would come the Expanded Basic Group. A ship with a Model/2 or 3 will have room for more. More Jump capability, the Generate program, maybe Gunner Interact.

After that comes the Basic Combat Group.

  • Maneuver/Evade-1 through 3 (1,2,3)
  • Predict-1 through 3 (1 or 2)
  • Gunner Interact (1)
  • Return Fire (1)
  • Anti-Missile (2)
  • Select-1 or 2 (1,2)

Finally the Heavy Combat Group.
  • Maneuver/Evade-5 (2)
  • Predict-5 (2)
  • Multi-Target 2,3 or 4 (1,2,4)
  • Select-3 (1)
  • ECM (3)
  • Double Fire (4)
What could the crew of the Beowulf do if they had room for three more programs? Add Predict-3 (1), Gunner Interact(1) and Generate(1). That's more operational and tactical capability!

A program like Double Fire can be squeezed down to Space-3 by improving the coding. (task defined below) I introduce the idea of programs with a size of 0 slots. A program of Space-1 can be reduced to Space-0. In the computer, two Space-0 programs fill up one CPU or Storage slot. It is not possible to write a space combat program that starts at Space-0. Maybe some ancillary programs that do specific & limited things.

Start Coding!

Other, 3 Terms. Computer-3.

To reduce a standard program's space requirement by 1):
[Computer-2, Skill as for writing, EDU 8+]
Throw 10+, DM +1 per Computer level above 2, if EDU 10+, +1; if 12+, +2, +1 per skill level above minimum. Time required: two weeks, retries possible.
Note: ECM & Jump-6 require Computer-4 and the skill for writing the program.

This process of space reduction will give the PCs the possibility for improving their computer's functionality at less cost than buying and installing a new mainframe. At the same time, it will not be common for this to happen. PCs who succeed at this will have an edge, rather than catch up to the average.

The Grades of Skill
  1. Programmer
  2. Senior Programmer
  3. Master Programmer
  4. Senior Master Programmer
  5. Expert Programmer
  6. Senior Expert Programmer
  7. Master Expert Programmer
Technician can be replaced with the skill description: Pilot, Mechanic, Driver, Marksman, Medic, etc.

Here are two new programs as I suggested in the first post.

Improved Sensor Range Cost: 2.5 MCr Space: 2
More precise code and improved algorithms allow the ships sensors to identify objects and sources beyond the 'normal' range of detection. The Navigator or Sensor Operator must make a throw to correctly interpret the sensor data.

Improved Sensor Precision Cost: 2 MCr Space: 2
More precise code and improved algorithms allow the ships sensors to better identify objects that are too small or have signals too weak for standard sensors to properly detect. Weak distress beacons, objects less than 1 dtn and other objects/sources that would be missed or overlooked will appear as results and be classified by the program. The Navigator/Sensor Operator must make a throw to correctly interpret the sensor data.

Image credits
Server Racks by Lucas Fonseca from Pexels
Programmer by Pixabay


  1. Well, that's ANOTHER one of your blog posts I'll be stealing!

    Thank you, Mr. Weaver.

  2. I like the idea here of the PC's using time and knowledge to improve their starship by a slight amount.

    It'll help them from pirates in small ships, but not enough to win against a real warship. IMTU, the arrival of a major warship, like a TIGRESS or AZHANTI HIGH LIGHTNING should be a MEMORABLE event for the players.