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Colonial Shipyard Starter Kit

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue

Author’s Note: This was created using Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition/Cepheus Engine rules.

In my attempts to build my own Traveller setting, I decided that I wanted primitive societies raiding in spaceships. Rather than go down the route of making the Jump Drive easy to discover at low TLs, I settled on the idea of repurposing a common (IMTU) part of the equipment sent out with well-funded colonies – the Shipyard Starter Kit (SSK, or “Baby’s First Kitbash” in some circles), intended to give young colonies a relatively inexpensive method of creating a local space presence.

It has a few issues, namely cost (over MCr35 for the initial kit) and the need for trainers, but that just opens new ideas for plots. Another issue is that it is not meant for use in hostile environments, but can be rebuilt to do so.

Upgrading and downgrading the kit (down to TL9 and up to TL 15) from the standard TL 12 should be a compounded 25% per TL (each discount or increase is applied separately, e.g. a TL9 kit would cost MCr35.193 (TL12) 0.75 (TL11) 0.75 (TL10) 0.75 (TL9) = MCr14.848), but your preferred discount/premium may be different (especially if the kit is being built with equipment from a higher TL).

As a side note, I allow spaceports with shipyards to build craft of one class higher at 150% list cost, and two classes higher at 200% list cost (Therefore a Class C port can build a starship, including jump drive, as though it were a Class A port, but at twice the cost, taking twice as long). This kit counts as a Class C shipyard, but much slower.

The SSK is primarily built with collapsible, pre-fabricated buildings, each being effectively a 30dTon module. A few of the modules are actually 30dton cargo containers, primarily for ease of setup. Any of them can actually be built into a locally available building, provided it is large enough. Interior components are starship grade, to allow the specialized manufacturing module (see below) to create new modules. This also allows them to be built into ships, which some colonies prefer.

Notes And Rules

Several modules make reference to x per man/hour – this is amount produced per worker, every hour of work. Workers can work up to 8 hours/day, with many colonies running 3 shifts/day if necessary. Some, for full efficiency, stagger shifts to cover for breaks and meals.

Ships (and most equipment) built using this are Dodgy – throw 5- for failure of produced equipment, per activation, or week of use. A worker with higher skill levels (above the skill-0 minimum required for all workers), at least 1/shift, reduces the failure chance; 4- for skill-1 and 2, 3- for skill-3+.

Workers require skills: Engineer-0, Mechanic-0 for general workers, Physical Science-0 (or Trade: Refinery Technician) for Refinery workers. Having a skill at 1+ adds to that worker’s output (easily ignored as background)

Modules

Power Module: The heart of the kit, this module, built into a container, can run up to 10 others (6 and 2/3rds if built into a ship, or running full life support for sealed modules) using a Size A Ship Grade Fusion Reactor. Also included is a Fuel Processor, a quarter dton of pumps and hoses for water, power cables and attachments taking up another quarter dton, and a collapsible fuel tank (holds 24dtons, takes up 0.25 when stowed). Another quarter dton is used for maintenance space. When stowed for travel, it can hold up to 24dtons of cargo (usually another building). Cost is MCr8.1675. During regular operations, it requires no workers and is monitored from the Command Module. Can run for 24 weeks before needing to refuel, which is easily done with a local water source.

Refinery Module: A quick note – this module drinks power like crazy, and counts as two modules for the purposes of computing power consumption. Also built as a container, almost all of its interior space is dedicated to the machinery required: 20dTons of ore refiners, and 10dtons of chemical refiners. There is no cargo space, so all output must be directed to storage units in another building (many colonies add another collapsed building at Cr8500 for this purpose). During transit, the machinery collapses to free up 6dTons of space – 2.5 are used for tanks to store chemical output (total of 2dtons, minus waste space), and 0.5 are used for 20 collapsed crates (0.25dTons each, when assembled). Typically, the storage building is also put in, taking up the remaining 3dTons. Configuring the machinery from storage mode takes 6 hours of work and system checks. Cost is MCr7.6, requires 3 workers per shift. Especially complicated chemical refinement will require a worker with Chemistry-1 or higher to succeed. Processes 0.2dtons of ore per hour, and 0.1dtons of chemicals per hour. Amount of raw materials required varies by process and yield. Physical Science 1+ adds 0.1dton to ore output (Metallurgy), or 0.05dton to chemical output (Chemistry) per level. Either may be replaced by Trade (Refinery Technician), which adds to both.

Manufacturing Module: Manufacturing Modules come in different types: General, Specialized, and Single, with the starting module being Specialized (Ship Parts). General Modules may produce anything, but at a low rate, Specialized produce a general class of items (Ship Parts, Slug Weapons, Electronics), and Single produce only a single item, or a very narrow specialization (10dTon Light Fighter Parts, ACRs, Hand Computer/2). They are no match for an actual industrial line, requiring hand labor and wasting materials. Production is measured in Cr/Man-hour, with some variations: General produces Cr500/man hour, Specialized produces Cr1000/man hour in its category, but can also retool to produce other items at Cr250/man hour, while Single produces at Cr1500/man hour with no ability to build anything else. Materials required will vary by mass and volume, but 120% of final is the minimum. Cost is MCr7.5085 for all types, allows up to 10 workers per shift (Required Skills: Mechanic-0, plus 1 other related to category, usually Engineering or Trade). Ships as 13dtons. Starter Module can manufacture other modules (hence all modules being built with Ship Grade parts). Having a relevant skill at 1+ adds Cr500 to production.

Teaching Module: Required to train new workers. If training low TL locals, 1 week of teaching is required per TL difference in order for them to familiarize them with the higher TL equipment and concepts before skill training can begin, plus time to get them over the sheer paradigm shift – TL6-8 adds two weeks, TL3-5 adds 4 weeks, and TL2- requires 8 weeks (locals on worlds with semi-frequent interstellar contact do not require this additional time). If any are illiterate, they can be trained in reading and writing in 10-INT weeks. Contains a simulator (for crew training, so the ships have someone onboard), a library (for reference and individual skill training), and 22dtons of classroom. May train up to 15 workers per class. Cost MCr9.0085, requires teachers (Minimum Instruction-1, plus relevant skills at 2+). Ships as 10dTons. Higher levels of Instruction decrease the familiarization time by 1 week per level, but does not decrease training time.

Command Module: The control center of the entire operation, plus the Air Traffic Control for the assumed starport field next door. Contains the ATC center, a briefing room, two offices, along with a lounge, kitchen, and freshers. Cost is MCr2.9085, requires only as much crew as is needed for ATC purposes (usually 3), plus cooks to feed workers, and a few bureaucrats (for big operations). Ships as 8.5dTons.

Construction Hanger: Not included in the base kit. Requires a minimum of 1 worker per 5dTons of craft, up to 1 worker per dTon, building at a rate of Cr10,000/man-hour. Cost is Cr50,000 times the maximum tonnage it will handle, up to 500dtons. Without a construction hanger, maximum tonnage is 200dtons, with a construction rate of Cr500/man-hour. For power consumption, double the maximum tonnage it can build, then divide by 30 and round up to the nearest whole number (a 500dton hanger will count as 17 modules). Mechanic 1+ or Engineer 1+ adds Cr500 to construction rate with a hanger, Cr50 without. Standard design discounts do not apply, unless there is a reliable source of offworld parts.

Use in A Campaign

At the most basic level, this is a background item, explaining the sheer number of Class C ports with shipyards. Moving higher up the usage scale, it provides a source of spare parts, and maybe a few plot points, such as Pirate Ports. At the higher end, a campaign can center around such a complex. For such campaigns, being part of a colony is the obvious idea – but the more interesting one is playing warlord on a primitive planet. In such an instance, consider allowing players to train in Instruction – it may be the only way they can train enough workers. Such a campaign would keep careful track of material sources, workers, and local politics.

In the Third Imperium, the SSK is tightly controlled, since it can easily allow a group of scoundrels to take over a primitive planet, a barbarian warlord to go raiding across the stars, or a pirate gang to set up an untraceable repair facility. To get one, the players would have to be part of a legitimate colony effort, successfully pretend to be part of a colony, steal one, or find a construction facility that will build them one with no questions asked. It will have to be paid in full, as almost no bank will finance these.

Under normal conditions, the first major project is a belter singleship to easily provide large amounts of raw ore, as any system has a large number of asteroids, even without a belt. After the trainers have trained their replacements, they will help build a starship to mark the end of their contract, and leave. Sometimes they take a crew to fly it back, other times the ship is their final pay (another campaign idea). At least one crew of trainers built a starter kit into their ship, and travel around, building more as they see fit.

Campaign Seed: The players are all relatively young people on a primitive planet (TL1-3). Recently, a group of warlords from the stars came in, conquered their area, and are now forcibly recruiting for pirate crews… Players should start with the Barbarian career, and modify it to reflect what their prior career was – Broker and Streetwise for a Merchant type, swapping out two other skills from basic training, is one example. Go through 1-2 terms, then add a training package reflecting the demands of their new lords. Go forth and wreak havoc – make sure to bring back the pretty loot.