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"A Star Trek question and a generic one." Topic


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Action Log

08 Jun 2017 12:04 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to Star Trek board


868 hits since 28 Feb 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa28 Feb 2017 12:36 p.m. PST

Okay, I've been tinkering with some simple generic spaceship combat rules with the idea that I might add some optional rules for specific settings. That got me thinking about torpedoes in Star Trek. Now I've watched a fair amount of Trek over the years, but I'm no expert. Torpedoes seem to be be pretty much hit every time and a quick prowl of the fan wiki suggests that originally they were a species of energy weapon, but evolved into a 'missile'. Given that they are missiles, for the majority of the cannon, are they ever shot down by phasers etc or otherwise subject to countermeasures (other than shields or one off plot devices) in the shows/films?

Second question, shields, they don't seem to regenerate terribly quickly in the context of Star Trek, or indeed any other setting you care to mention, except at speed of plot. So in a game what do people prefer regenerating shields or not regenerating?

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa28 Feb 2017 12:37 p.m. PST

Okay, I've been tinkering with some simple generic spaceship combat rules with the idea that I might add some optional rules for specific settings. That got me thinking about torpedoes in Star Trek. Now I've watched a fair amount of Trek over the years, but I'm no expert. Torpedoes seem to be be pretty much hit every time and a quick prowl of the fan wiki suggests that originally they were a species of energy weapon, but evolved into a 'missile'. Given that they are missiles, for the majority of the cannon, are they ever shot down by phasers etc or otherwise subject to countermeasures (other than shields or one off plot devices) in the shows/films?

Second question, shields, they don't seem to regenerate terribly quickly in the context of Star Trek, or indeed any other setting you care to mention, except at speed of plot. So in a game what do people prefer regenerating shields or not regenerating?

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa28 Feb 2017 12:47 p.m. PST

What the hell…

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 12:58 p.m. PST

This should probably be posted in Game Design, if that's the correct name of the forum.

Photon torpedos miss in the original series, at least. What is a photon torpedo? Good question.

If I recall The Making of Star Trek correctly, the warhead consists of a piece of matter and a piece of corresponding anti-matter, separated by a force field. When the force field stops separating the pieces, they mutually annihilate, resulting in a large output of energy. There must be a device generating the force field, and that device has a proximity detector and a timer to control the deactivation of the force field.

Inasmuch as many Star Trek space battles are fought at faster-than-light speed, photon torpedos must be warp capable in some way.

Personal logo Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 12:59 p.m. PST

In the Star Trek reboot movie, both the Kelvin and the Enterprise were shooting down photon torpedoes with phases.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 1:00 p.m. PST

Regarding your second question, I haven't actually played a miniatures game with shields, but I have played the video game Federation Commander (I think that's the title -- it was a long time ago). Shields that failed had to be repaired, and that took some time, during which you'd better keep turning that side away from the enemy. I liked that approach.

Dynaman878928 Feb 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Best bet is to go with a missile of some kind that can not be shot down. Original Trek used the Photon effect as a phaser beam in one episode, in Wrath of Khan they were shown as torpedos being loaded in a tube, in Undiscovered Country Spock and McCoy programmed one to follow a gas trail, and in the reboots it was already mentioned that they can be shot down. So the show does whatever the heck it wants at the time.

cosmicbank28 Feb 2017 1:35 p.m. PST

Heinlien sumed it up best Don't Explain the Science. If the ship Has to be somewhere in six days because if the story line just cal it super drive and do it.

Personal logo John Treadaway Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

What Oberlindes Sol LIC said.

They are in the TV series a guided weapon that was fairly un-interceptable (if that's a word). Could be fired unguided with a wide spread if the target couldn't be seen because of a cloak etc.

By the time of the films they were obviously capable of more sophisticated guidance.

As for the 'reboot'… I really don't care!

John T

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa28 Feb 2017 2:56 p.m. PST

In the Star Trek reboot movie, both the Kelvin and the Enterprise were shooting down photon torpedoes with phases.

Honestly don't remember that (quite like the first two reboots for what they were – and yes I know that brands me heretic in some circles)

Mako11 Inactive Member28 Feb 2017 3:42 p.m. PST

In the original series, I always had the impression they were more like fire and forget torpedoes without any guidance, since there were a lot of misses, and they were usually fired in salvoes.

Later, they seem to have developed the ability to track targets, so were more likely to be on target.

Not sure if that is correct, since it's been quite a while since I've seen the shows, and movies, but that's how I remember them.

If you assume they are real objects, and not just heated plasms, I see no reason why you couldn't fire on them in point defense mode, when they get close.

TheBeast Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2017 4:02 p.m. PST

Dr Samuel Johnson is right about Olson Johnson being right…

Sorry, didn't really have anything to add to the original topic besides the 'ST canon firmly carved in jello' said elsewhere.

AND, I enjoyed the reboots to a friend's disgust, though I had a bit of trouble calling them 'Star Trek.' *shrug*

Except Urban's McCoy.

Doug

parrskool01 Mar 2017 8:58 a.m. PST

In space, at speeds,and distances likely, only guided missiles would have a chance to hit. Beams are a no-no, in my opinion. Dave Rotor had a set of simple Galactic War rules out in the '70's which were pretty good at shield regeneration.

wminsing Inactive Member01 Mar 2017 11:10 a.m. PST

Beams are a no-no, in my opinion.

Why? A speed of light (or near speed of light weapon) is not going to have any trouble hitting a target at fairly astonishing ranges.

You could also make a similar argument against missiles; unless you can shrink your ship's drive system down to missile size, any ship will have a trivial time outdistancing a missile. If you CAN shrink the drive down, then warships are superfluous; just send the missiles….

-Will

wminsing Inactive Member01 Mar 2017 12:36 p.m. PST

Also on the original topic, in classic Trek no, there was never any indication that phasers used as as point-defense against torpedoes, even though they clearly WERE capable of that level of precision…. And torpedoes jumped between being guided and being unguided….. jello, all of it is jello I tell you!

For shields (more jello!) I'd argue that regenerating shields is more interesting, but don't make them regenerate so fast that knocking one down is a waste of time. The fun part of directional shields is that they add an element of maneuver to defense as they go down, which non-regenerating shields do too, but if they don't come back then eventually it turns into a non-factor as nothing you do will protect the ship any more.

-Will

ROUWetPatchBehindTheSofa01 Mar 2017 1:03 p.m. PST

From initially reading the Memory Bank Alpha wiki, they seemed to suggest that the 'torpedoes' evolved during the first couple of series and movies from something akin to an energy weapon to something clearly a weapon with a casing, which kind'a matches with my fuzzy memories. So, yeah, basically jello! And IIRC their effectiveness was entirely plot dependant aswell swinging between spitball and devastating. On the guidance issue, on reading the wiki which mentioned the guidance issue, I went "guided, really? Why do they fire them spreads then like old school naval torpedoes?" More jello.

Thanks for the thoughts on shields. And I do recall reading about a game where rotating your ship on its axis, to present a still defended side to the enamy, was an important tactic. But can't remember what it was now. Still I'm trying to keep the rules to a side of A4 so I'm going to sacrifice detail for brevity (and hopefully fun) and I'll probably just mush defence in to a single characteristic.

wminsing Inactive Member01 Mar 2017 1:34 p.m. PST

Ah if you're not doing directional defenses I'd ignore shield regeneration then; will not add much.

Yes there are episodes where the torpedoes are clearly guided and episodes where they are clearly NOT guided. There's a reason it's called soft sci-fi. :)

-Will

Dynaman878901 Mar 2017 2:19 p.m. PST

> their effectiveness was entirely plot dependant aswell swinging between spitball and devastating

The worst offense being one single episode where the Enterprise hits NOMAD with single Photon and Kirk asks what could possible survive that kind of power. NOMAD fires back and hits the Enterprise with a weapon that Spock says was equivalent to 200 Photon torpedoes…

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP02 Mar 2017 4:08 p.m. PST

@Dynaman8789: I'd forgotten that bit in the Changeling. My comments are in double brackets. The script is at
link

SCOTT: Shields still holding, sir.
KIRK: Good.
SPOCK: Temporarily, Captain. Our shields absorbed energy equivalent to ninety of our photon torpedoes.
KIRK: Ninety?
SPOCK: I may add, the energy used repulsing this first attack reduced our shielding power twenty percent.

[[Do shields absorb or repulse or both?]]

UHURA: First attack, sir?
KIRK: I think we can expect others, Lieutenant.
SPOCK: We can resist three more such attacks. The fourth will shatter our shields completely.
KIRK: Mister Spock, pinpoint the source. Mister Sulu, evasive manoeuvres.
SULU: Aye, sir.
KIRK: Lieutenant, contact Starfleet Command. Patch in my log. Tell them what has happened. Tell them the entire Malurian race seems to have been destroyed by an unknown agency, and that we are under attack by an unidentified force.
(Another ball of light is on the viewscreen)
KIRK: Helmsmen, I said evasive manoeuvres.
SULU: We're losing power, sir.
KIRK: Scotty?
SCOTT: I'm having to divert the warp engine power into the shields, sir, if you want the protection.
KIRK: Mister Spock, speed of those bolts.
SPOCK: Approximately warp fifteen, Captain.
KIRK: Then we can't out run them. Good, Scotty. You're doing the right thing. (another hit) Source, Spock.
SPOCK: Unknown, Captain. Nothing within sensor range. (a third bolt approaching) Something now, Captain. Very small. Bearing one two three degrees, mark one eight. Range ninety thousand kilometres.

[[90,000km = 0.3 light-seconds, so there isn't any time for talking. Isn't warp 15 c*15?]]

KIRK: That's our target, Mister Sulu. Prepare photon torpedo.
(The third bolt hits)
SCOTT: Shields still holding, sir, but the drain on the engines is reaching the critical point. Ach, we lost warp manoeuvreing power. Switching to impulse.
SULU: Photon torpedoes armed, sir.
KIRK: Has the target changed location, Mister Spock?
SPOCK: No, sir. Holding steady.
KIRK: Ready photon torpedo number two, Mister Sulu.
SULU: Ready, sir.
KIRK: Fire.
SULU: Torpedo away. (a pause, then a flash) Direct hit.
SPOCK: No effect. Target absorbed full energy of our torpedo.
KIRK: Absorbed it? There must be damage to your instruments, Spock .
SPOCK: They are in good working order, Captain.
KIRK: But what could have absorbed that much energy and survived? Lieutenant, try to make contact.

[[Facepalm.]]

Lion in the Stars02 Mar 2017 7:31 p.m. PST

Well, from the Trek I remember, photon torps are physical missiles, but they're so fast that they're not interceptable. From one set of SFB blueprints or another, a Photon Torp gets launched by a warp field in the tube, and the casing carries the warp field along for a limited distance.

SFB has them as a direct-fire weapon by rules mechanics, but also has ships engaging each other at 300,000kms and more (one hex is 10,000kms).

As far as shields go, I like slowly-regenerating shields that absorb damage, like SFB. Fairly simple to write rules for that, honestly.

EJNashIII03 Mar 2017 9:13 p.m. PST

Next Generation and Voyager definitely thought of them as missiles/ modern guided torpedoes with a limited number of reloads on board. They could even be modified for non combat uses like a sensor probe. It was even a bit of side game to figure out the exact count left on Voyager at a given date.

Part time gamer06 Mar 2017 4:29 a.m. PST

I loved TOS and as you guys have shown here: 'All ST versions", the 'science' was just 'script justified'.
EX: The "tachyon (or tacky-) beam". There was no problem it could not solve.

So I came up w/ "MY" ST Universe & rules. IF I didnt see it or recall it used in TOS, generally its not in my sys.

As for the photon torpedos: always appeared to be just "a ball of energy". Too fast and not effected by phasers, only shields could stop it.

Plasma torpedoe: basically 'SUPER-heated', energized 'jello' that phasers could "detonote". (TOS: the Balance of Terror)

As for "Drones" not in TOS, but I allow them as they are simply "guided missles" and a logical extension of military tech.
As "solid protjectiles", they can be destroyed by phasers. (Pt Def Sys were never in TOS) BUT due to high spd & Extrememly small size, very difficult to hit. Also have used the idea that the shields electro-magnetic energy "may" cause the drone/missle to detonate.. or not.

The "Disruptors" were the weapon I was never really clear on. Felt they were an intense energy (sound) wave, type weapon, to 'disrupt' objects or elctrical sys.

In short.
Phasers. Standerd Long Range Wpn common to all races.
Photon Torp. Med. Range Wpn also common to all races.
Distruptors: Short Range / very powerful used by Klingons.
Drones. Set for specific targt. No Range Limit but 'could' be set to self destuct after "X" No. of turns.

demiurgex07 Mar 2017 11:53 a.m. PST

I've always had Photon Torps as non-interceptable in my games, at least by normal tech.

There is one canon time I could find in the series (TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT) where a phaser intercepts a PT.

But that was when Voyager used its own phasers to target a PT that it fired. That intimated that they didn't have the ability to detonate them at range, which was an odd idea.

But yeah, there's not a hell of a lot of internal consistency over 28 years of scripts, so do what you think is right.

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