Saturday, January 27, 2024

Classic Traveller: Back to Empty-Hex Jumps


Yesterday, I discussed the question of empty-hex (deep-space) jumps in Classic Traveller. This (re-)opened a wide discussion of this subject on numerous Traveller groups on Discord, Facebook, and even in this blog's comments, and has led me to further thinking of this subject.

I no longer have a problem with empty-hexagon jumps. Why so? Because economics and logistics solve this problem. Technically, you can have a Jump-1 ship, 60%-80% of which tonnage is fuel, walk all over the map. However, the question is usually not only where the ship can go, but rather what the ship can actually do at its destination. With high fuel tankage, this means bringing less cargo, passengers, troops, or fighters to the target system.

Consider, for example, a 5,000-ton TL15 Supercarrier. You can have it cross a 4-parsec mini-rift with sufficient fuel (whether 4-Jump-1, 2-Jump-2, or 1-Jump-4). However, 40% of its tonnage is fuel. When facing a shorter-range Supercarrier, with, say, 20% fuel tonnage, the shorter-range ship will have 1,000 more tons of fighters - which means, in Book 2 terms, 100 (!!!) more 10-ton Book 2 fighters (note that Book 2 does not require additional hangarage tonnage). In a standard fight, this will place it at a major disadvantage. A Jump-2 5,000-ton TL15 Corporate Megafreighter will carry 1,000 more profit-generating cargo than a Jump-4 one, not counting additional drive tonnage if it is designed to cross that distance at once.

This is why most ships, including military ships, will rarely carry more fuel than required for Jump-2, or, at an extremely, Jump-3. Chokepoints still matter! Bypassing them would usually occur during a surprise attack, when the enemy is unprepared, or unable to be prepared, to defend rear systems. Against a prepared enemy, such an attack will be far less effective, due to the aforementioned logistics. Most ships will look for a Jump-2, or at most Jump-3, route, and refuel along the way rather than waste precious fighter/troop/cargo/passenger space on fuel.

For a surprise attack, a shipyard will remove the ships' extra fighters and install fuel tanks instead, but, again, this will put the ships at a major disadvantage if the enemy gets wind of such preparations and meets them with shorter-range ships at the target system. Another use of empty-hex jumps is in "Black War" acts of terror, which will be rare in non-total interstellar wars as they destroy the prizes of such wars (i.e., worlds and resources); these would only occur only in wars of extermination and desperation.

So, back to empty-hex jumps...

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