Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Just Get us On the Ground - rules for landing your ship

 "Just get us on the ground." - frustrated starship captain

"That part will happen pretty definitely." - his stressed-out pilot

When the PCs arrive in a new system, do they always head for the starport? Why not put down somewhere else instead? There's all kinds of reasons to do this. The barrier between the ship and the land is of course, the atmosphere. 
Any time a ship wants to put down on the surface of a planet, the pilot must make the following throw:  
To land a ship: Throw UPP Atmosphere code or better. DM +Pilot Skill, + starport DM, -1 per unrepaired hull hit, +2 if small craft, +1 if the pilot is a Scout, -2 if in combat, -1 for bad weather. 
Starport DM: Class A +6, Class B +4, Class C +2, Class D/E +0, Class X -4 
Landing a ship away from the starport uses the DM for Class X (no port) 
Going in reverse, taking off, the planet's gravity is the major barrier.  
To take off from a planet surface: Throw the UPP Size code or greater. DM +Pilot skill, +ship's M-drive rating, -1 per unrepaired hull hit.
Familiarity: a pilot must land on a planet [5-pilot skill] times to become familiar with that planet's landing profile. After that, the pilot gains an extra +2 DM.
Unstreamlined ships always suffer a DM of -4. They're not supposed to be operating in atmosphere to begin with.
Failing the throw does not mean the ship automatically crashes. If the throw is not made, then the referee rolls once on the starship or small craft damage table. The referee can allow the pilot's player to 'bump' the roll by the Pilot's skill level. In effect the pilot chooses to spare one component and sacrifice another.
The referee can use the CT tables, or the tables presented in the article “New Space Combat System”. It appeared in Space Gamer issue #40 on pages 6-8. 
Hull hits, by the rules, result in explosive decompression. This compromises the ship's vacuum integrity. There is less danger while the ship is in atmosphere. Yet, on some worlds, the concern is that an unpleasant atmosphere will get in! Landing on a world with a high Atmosphere codes is risky.
Damage repair costs 2Dx10% of the new cost of the component. This leads to adventures as the PCs try to raise the cash to fix the ship.
Starship crashes will happen as often as airplane crashes occur on Earth. Planets with tougher landing conditions will have more of them, but no planet will be free of crashes.


  1. "Was that my gorram buffer panel...?"

  2. The thing is grav drives would massively simplify orbital reentry. Ships so equipped in Traveller are free from limited reaction mass and the need to use atmospheric braking. All you would need to do for a basic reentry is match the planets orbital speed and rotation speed and descend.

  3. The FAA reckon there's a commercial flight crash for every 10,000 - 15,000 hours flight time. Most of those aren't fatal (Wing clips light pole sort of thing). Our tramp spaceships may not be as well managed, but I'd expect accidents are very rare - normally
    You could use the same approach the LBBs do for other rare starship problems, like drive failure or misjumps; it happens on a roll of 13+ (never normally), but bad circumstances (dodgy fuel, missed maintenance, too close to planet) give positive DMs. So here, unrepaired damage, or going off the usual flight routes might increase the risk.
    Hmm, if not having navigation aids is a problem, does that mean type E ports are also a problem?

    1. That's my take on it, that at type E & X ports the pilot is landing without guidance from the ground, and in Class-X or non-starport landings, onto ground that may or may not be suitable for 200+ tons of ship to come to rest.
      The approach you suggest for landing mishaps will work as well. My inclination is to make that part of space travel less routine, more part of the adventure. Also a place for high skill levels to shine by pulling off tough maneuvers.