The Frontiers of Design
A new shipbuilding system for the Star Frontiers game

by Mike Lane
Dragon Magazine, #132, pg. 74

Many Star Frontiers game players have problems when it comes to designing nonstandard military ships for use with the Knight Hawks board game and, as I can testify, it becomes rather nerve-wracking to be constantly asked "How many laser batteries can I put on this minelayer? Well, then, how many rocket battery salvos can it carry? Well, then…" and so on. Over many hours and some calculator thumping, a system that pleased everyone in my gaming group was generated. This system creates starships compatible with (if a little tougher than) those given in the board-game rules. The new ships also have a great variability in weaponry, which can make even a simple assault-scout duel quite interesting.

The following sections deal with the shipbuilding formulas and overall system in depth. Tables 1-6 give details on the items discussed below.

Hull Points and DCR

A civilian ship's hull points and DCR (Damage Control Rating) are determined as per the Knight Hawks rule book - i.e., hull size X 5 = hull points; (hull size X 3) + 20 = DCR. Military and Star Law ships multiply hull size by 10 to determine hull points and by 9 to determine DCR. The greater values generated show the toughness and technical superiority of the secret military equipment, and result in fewer attacking ships being vaporized in the "Defensive Fire" phase of combat.

Weaponry and Defenses

All weapons and defenses on a ship are placed according to the amount of space they occupy in cubic meters, as per the statistics on page 61 of the Knight Hawks game rules, rather than using the MHS (Minimum Hull Size) method. The MHS is still used as a measure of how many weapons of one type may be mounted on a certain hull.

The maximum number of each type of weapon on a ship may not exceed the hull size rating divided by the MHS of that weapon system. However, any ship with the necessary space may mount any one weapon despite its MHS. (Yes, you can have an assault scout with a laser cannon!)

Defenses are also bought by the cubic meter, though no ship of less than hull size 5 can mount a powered defense screen because of the screen's heavy energy demands, which require the larger "B" engines.

The cubic meters of space for each hull size is determined by a decreasing percentage scale, with figures rounded to the nearest useful amount. This effectively reduces the free space on a battleship to about 1.6%, as compared to a fighter's 97%, which reflects the squeeze on space as life-support systems, crew quarters, storage areas, and so forth expand with ship size and potential patrol duration.

It should be noted that noncombat ships such as freighters, research vessels, liners, and the like have only 40% of the space listed, since their primary functions demand nearly all available space. This is not to say that there could not be small-capacity, heavily armed liners used to move VIPs; this simply means that such ships would not be self-sufficient and would thus be very rare.

Weapon Magazines

Rather than saying that a certain number of rounds can be kept in a launcher, the cubic-meters system is used to determine the number of rounds carried. Thus, ammunition for assault rockets, rocket-battery arrays, torpedo launchers, mine spreaders, seeker-missile racks, masking screen launchers, and ICM launchers are figured on a cubic-meters-per-shot basis, though one round (or one array, or 20 meters of mines) may be kept at no space cost in any launcher except a masking screen launcher. This is because a masking screen charge is larger than the launcher itself.

Space Stations

Space stations come in four main categories: fortresses, fortified stations, armed stations, and unarmed stations. The last title is something of a misnomer, as even the smallest freight station is likely to have a laser battery to discourage piracy.

Military stations fall in the fortress and fortified-station categories, while megacorporation have only a few fortified stations and many armed ones. "Free" stations not belonging to any one group or cartel are usually armed, though a few fortified and unarmed stations can be found. Small freight stations, scientific stations, and automated stations are usually unarmed.

Space-station weaponry and defenses are mounted in exactly the same way as they are on starships, with two differences: No forward-firing weaponry may be mounted, and MHS restrictions are ignored with respect to the maximum number of one weapon type mountable.

The statistics given in Table 6 refer to a single space-station hull of a given size. It should be remembered that more than one hull may be joined to create megastations, as per page 8 of the Knight Hawks rule book, though such huge stations are prohibitively expensive for all but the military and megacorporations of the largest size.

Miscellaneous Items

Players and GMs will undoubtedly find new things to put on ships. By carefully determining an item's size, it can easily be integrated into this system. Remember, though, that addition of any item beyond the listed maximums reduces the ADF or MR of the ship by one.

Table 1: Space Available by Hull Size

Hull  Military Civilian
size    ships    ships

  1      30       20

  2      50       30

  3      75       40

  4     100       50

  5     175       90

  6     250      125

  7     300      150

  8     350      175

  9     400      200

 10     450      225

 11     500      250

 12     550      275

 13     600      300

 14     700      350

 15     800      400

 16     900      450

 17     1000     500

 18     1100     550

 19     1200     600

 20     1300     650

Table 2: Weaponry and Space Needed

Weapon             meters  MHS

Laser cannon         40     5

Laser battery        25     3

Proton-beam          30     10

Elector-beam         30     6

Disruptor cannon     60     12

Assault-rocket       10     1

Assault rocket *     10     -

Rocket-battery       40     5

Rocket-battery       10     -

Torpedo launcher     75     5

Torpedo              20     -

Mine spreader        60     7

Mines (5 fields)     20     -

Seeker-missile       40     7

Seeker missile       40     -

Grapples             60     5

* Assault rockets for rearming fighters kept aboard an assault carrier are kept in cargo space. Up to 15 per cargo unit can be carried.

Table 3: Defenses and Space Needed

Defense            Cubic meters

Reflective hull          -

Masking-screen          10

Masking-screen          25

Electron screen      10 x hull

Proton screen        12 x hull

Stasis screen        10 x hull

ICM launcher            10

ICM                      5

Table 4: Optional Items Carried

Item                    Cubic

Fighter                  60

Assault-transport       35 *

Hull size 2 ship         120

Assault scout            850

* Dropships are mounted about 75% externally, thus taking up less space than the totally interior docking areas and repair facilities used by fighters.

Table 5: DCR and Hull Points

  Ship          DCR           Hull
  type     determination     points

Civilian   (HS x 3) + 20     HS x 5

Military   (HS x 9) + 20     HS x 10

Table 6: Space Stations

Station  Hull   Hull           Space in
type     size  points   DCR      cubic

Fortress   5     250    175       550

           6     300    200       800

Fortifie   3     80      60       180

           4     120     80       210

           5     140    100       250

Armed      1     30      30       80

           2     55      40       120

           3     70      65       160

           4     80      75       200

Unarmed    1     20      25       25

           2     40      35       50

           3     55      50       75

           4     75      70       100