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Mongoose Traveller Supplement 14: Space Stations

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue.

Supplement 14: Space Stations. Barnes Thomas.
Mongoose Publishing http://www.mongoosepublishing.com
96pp., PDF or Softcover

It’s not hard to see where a space station fits into a Traveller campaign—at the very least, they can represent the orbital component of a starport, and starports are at the heart of travelling, second only to the starships they serve. But they can be more than just filling stations and mini-malls along an interstellar highway—they can be destinations in and of themselves, with vibrant communities and attractions of their own. They can be one of several economic engines in a star system. They can be centers of research or learning or manufacture. The limits are, in reality, only your imagination.

This book allows you to start with that imagination, and flesh it out into something that “feels right” for your Traveller campaign. It starts with the rules for constructing a space station, outlining the various needs for the station, much like the rules for constructing starships. In fact, the two sequences are parallel, with the differences being called out (e.g., because a station doesn’t move as much as a starship, the hull need not be as strong; stations don’t need jump drives; stations often can be much larger than even the largest capital ships, etc.). There isn’t the wide variety of hull configurations called out as in starship construction; instead, the important decision for a space station hull is whether it will be a spin-gravity structure or an artificial-gravity structure, with a spin-gravity structure being more limited as to configuration (but available at lower TLs).

It should be noted that this book does not discuss the differences—if any—between starports and space stations, and, unlike Starports (focussed on the Third Imperium setting), this supplement is strictly generic, not tied to any published setting.

After the basics have been determined in the first chapter, the station has to be equipped for its function, whether that function is to act as a filling station and mini-mall for starships passing through, to act as a refining platform for resource extraction in the inner or outer system, to defend the mainworld—or a critical outpost—against marauders from out-system, to probe the depth of space, or of one of the systems worlds, in pursuit of new knowledge, or whatever. The second chapter allows you to equip the station for any of these purposes, and generally offers multiple options for a given function, allowing customization of the station.

Now that you have your station, the next chapter talks about operating it—and attacking it; space stations are going to be relatively high-value targets in a star system. This section does touch on the differences between space stations and starports, but only to the extent that one must interpret some of the characteristics slightly differently. The emphasis in this chapter is on developing the overview of the operational characteristics, not on actually running the station from day to day.

The next chapter widens the scope: instead of focussing on a single station, it discusses generating an overview of the set of space stations one might find in a system, at the equivalent of a UWP level—that is, the details of a station are not generated, just the basics of how many stations of a type are present, and what those types are. Although some of the discussion uses terminology that hearkens back to the Third Imperium setting, there’s no actual tie to that setting.

The next chapter returns to the single-station scope, but now focusses on the context—a space station doesn’t exist in a vacuum (well, yes, it does, but that’s just a physical vacuum—I’m now talking about an economic/social vacuum for it to not exist in). More specifically, this focusses on building a space station and having it be a real place, with a need to bring in a profit, rather than merely being a flat for the player-characters to act in front of. It’s pretty clear from this chapter that while there can be a primary reason for a station’s existence, secondary purposes will be common, and such factors as crew skill and efficiency will play a part in defining the profitability of the station.

One important function that a space station can serve is as a shipyard. The next chapter discusses this, in terms of both constructing to contract and speculative construction. Constructing to contract is given as the more reliable way to realize income from constructing spacecraft and starships, but speculative construction is potentially more lucrative. On the other hand, it’s coupled with higher risk; what do you do with the starship that you’ve constructed on spec but now can’t find a buyer for? At least with contract construction, you’ve got a buyer lined up before the first structural member of the hull is set in place…

Putting it all together isn’t always easy. The next chapter presents an example, in the Agave system. A history of the system is presented, including some NPC patron encounters and the adventures they can send the PCs on. Space stations of all types play roles in the adventures, and give the players a good look at what a space station is and does in an actual setting. The system setting is not tied to the Third Imperium setting, so can be used in pretty much any campaign.

Finally, comprising half the book, is a set of pre-generated space stations of various types, with stat sheets and at least partial deck plans for each. The plans are, unfortunately, in bitmap format, so while they can be enlarged to try to get a better look at detail, there are limits beyond which they’ll simply become fuzzy. Fortunately, you can zoom in enough to identify components and staterooms—but not enough to make it worthwhile printing them out to use as miniatures maps.

Overall, the PDF is probably a better value than the print edition—but if you're not going to be doing space-station-centric adventures, there are certainly better things to spend your money on.