Arcane Game Lore

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A Thought on Starship Sizes in Star Frontiers

It’s been a while since I last posted; life has definitely had the upper hand the last few weeks. I think I’ve gotten caught up and hopefully more regular posting will resume next week.  Also I hope to have more of these shorter form posts in the future in addition to the somewhat longer ones I usually do.

I was recently reading a series of articles on the Tough SF blog about the “laser problem” and one of the comments made in the first article got me thinking about the size of ships in Star Frontiers and how they scale with the Hull Size rating.

The basic problem is that while things like cargo capacity and number of weapons and defenses scale linearly with hull size, the amount of interior volume with in the ship goes up geometrically.  Thus a HS 20 ship, while it can only carry 4 times as much cargo and weapons as a HS 5 ship, it is over 260 times bigger.

What struck me is that maybe the designers were letting the rocket equation influence the design even though the stated rules don’t suffer from the limitations imposed by that equation.  The rocket equation basically points out that the more massive the rocket, the more fuel is needed to move it and increasing size requires more fuel which increases size which requires more fuel, which increases … you get the picture.  At some point you reach a limit based on your fuel type and engine capabilities where you just can’t get bigger.  But the basic point is that doubling the mass of the payload more than doubles the mass of the fuel/engine capacity needed.

As written, the ships in Star Frontiers don’t suffer from this problem and they have nearly unlimited thrust from very little fuel.  It’s all science fantasy but that’s the way the game is written.  But just maybe, the designers had this idea in mind when they set up the ship sizes.  Namely that the larger ships required much more “fuel” to achieve the same effects and so while the size of the ships went big, the capacity of materials to be moved and included didn’t go up nearly as fast, all the extra space was going into the extra fuel.

Now that extra fuel, in terms of cost, mass, etc, never got written into the rules but given that there was a rapid shift in direction for the game just before publication, maybe this is something that didn’t get quite ironed out properly (it wouldn’t be the only thing).  It would definitely make a good explanation as to why the ships are sized the way they are.

Categorised as: General

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