Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Implications of Jump Drive

 The Jump Drive is the technology in Traveller that allows for FTL travel. We play Traveller, We know this. But have you thought about what that means?

The Jump Drive moves the PCs from hex to hex, yes. But how?  You look at the jump rating, which is a cross-reference of the size of the ship and the letter code, A to Z, of the drive. These give us the ratings from 1 to 6. Still telling you things you already know.

The point is this: a jump drive is not rated by how fast it can go. Any jump “takes about one week” (TTB, p. 49) whether you have a tiny type-A in your Free Trader or a mammoth type-Z in your super-cargo freighter. 

A jump drive rating tells you how far it can go in that one week. A jump-2 drive is not twice as fast  as a jump-1 drive; it has twice the range of the jump-1 drive.

There is no real-world comparison for this distinction. We rate vehicles, from bicycles to Blackbirds in rate of distance per unit of time. Faster vehicles cover the distance in less time. Not so in Traveller. A jump-1 drive takes as long as a jump-6 drive to do a one-hex transit. End of story. 

The difference is of vital importance to Travellers. Why? Because of a hard-wired fact of the Traveller setting, whether the 3rd Imperium or my own Church and Empire setting. Information, in order to propagate, must be carried. In ships, that all take a week to jump. 

From Supp 8, Library Data: Another central fact of interstellar travel is that no method of information transfer faster than jump drive transmission has been discovered. Ships can carry messages, but radio still lags at mere light speed. Communication is always restricted to the speed of interstellar transportation.

The distances between worlds is a fixed and unchanging quantity. If you want information about a world 6 hexes away, how long will it take for that information to reach you? Answer: either six weeks, or one. If you get your information delivered express, you get to act a month and a half before the other guy does, who’s waiting on a jump-1 courier to bring it.

The same goes when Travellers decide to, well, travel. A ship with Jump-4 can get a Traveller from Holtzmann to Stavanger in one week. A Jump-2 ship will take 3 weeks to make the same trip. Look at the map to figure out why. If your PC and his competition have a goal to reach on Stavanger, what is the essential play?  Securing the ship with long enough legs to get you there in one week.

Add to that this complication. Not all planets have the same access to the information delivery network. TTB page 89 says: 

Within the subsector, local governments will have established communications or trade routes connecting some (but not all) worlds.


Communications routes should be carefully drawn so as to avoid making all parts of the subsector accessible; a subsector should reserve some areas as backwaters for exploration and adventure.

Depending on where you are, it may take even longer for the Big News to reach you.

The Traveller who wants to do big things and make a name for himself needs information, and needs it faster than his competition. Knowledge is Power. The Jump drive is the key to that power. 

Image credit: Pixabay

1 comment:

  1. I like the fact that we have no ansibles or FTL comms other than ships. But it does take a bit of getting used to, as this is not a Star Wars or Star Trek type of game. It does present a lot of problems (I see that 40 year ship loan as being really difficult to actually track of the decades, especially if the ship leaves Imperial or whatever political group you are in that can enforce the law). But it also brings in a lot of other possibilities as well for those with a ship with longer legs.