Classic Traveller - Why would a starship have fighters?

One of the weird ways I learn a system is to make a referee's guide. I did it for microlite20, back in '08 when I was rediscovering D&D. Then for AD&D, Swords & Wizardry, White Box... and now for Classic Traveller. 

I know it's weird, but it forces me to really grok the rules so I can distill them down to the essence and put them in cheat-sheets. I use these lil' suckers at the table. It used to be I printed letter-sized sheets, but now I do booklets - print them out in Adobe PDF using the booklet layout. 

Which brings me to having reached the Starship Combat portion of the rules. They're not too hard to figure out, but then I look at my Battlestar Galactica setting and I have to ask and answer the question - "Why would a starship have fighters?"

I have a feeling that this same question was asked by naval officers back in the 1910s and 1920s as they considered the upstart aeroplanes and what they could do.  During WW1, airplanes were used as anti-submarine patrols and there was even a surprise raid by British Sopwith Camels launched off a ship to raid a German airship base. It wasn't until the 1920s that nations started building aircraft carriers and learning that aircraft could sink battleships with bombs and torpedoes. World War II proved this, with the British air victory over the Italian Navy at the Battle of Taranto in 1940, and then the devastating surprise attack by the Japanese against the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor establishing the need for air superiority over land and sea.

So, to answer my question, I have to do two things - set aside the brutal reality of space combat [1] and maintain a bit of verisimilitude. World War 2 gives me a bit of that.

If I'm a capital ship facing off against another capital ship, I could try to slug it out with missiles and long range weapons, such as mass drivers/gauss guns. Or, I could sit back out of range, launch lots of smaller ships with missiles and let them attempt to overwhelm the enemy's point defenses. To do that, though, the enemy is probably going to have small ships of their own, both as defense and their own offense.

Sounds a lot like the US and Japanese naval battles of WW2. The tactic then was to launch scouts to find the enemy carriers, launch dive bombers/torpedo bombers at the discovered ships, while trying to maintain enough of a defensive air screen around your ship to beat back any counter-attack. 

OK, so I have a "why", but how do I do this in Classic Traveller?  The facts and figures in the original game of the 3 books (not counting any supplemental rules) are geared towards the bigger ships - the Free Traders and Merchant ships and the like. Things that are going to have a few lasers, some missile launchers and computer programs to handle offensive/defensive type activities. Plus, the nature of the combat is fairly abstract, there's not a lot to manage. 

I'm still noodling that out, but I have the following in mind:

  • In my BSG/CT setting, I'm going with mass-driven projectiles or missiles. Only capital ships mount laser cannons and they're the main batteries to use against other capital ships. [2]

  • I'm not going to track individual fighters, rather they're going to be sent out in groups. I'll track the group. I guess you could almost think of them as self-guided missiles, in terms of movement and what they can do.

  • Fighter groups will either be armed with anti-ship projectile weapons or 3 missiles. Anti-ship projectile weapons are used against other fighters. The missiles are used against capital ships. You got one job... kill other fighters or bomb the ship!

  • Fighters can be targeted by anti-missile fire from ships.

  • I've got to come up with some combat procedure for the fighter v fighter combat.

  • Missiles are launched by fighters in the "phasing player's ordinance launch" phase. The fighter launching has to be in contact with the target for a complete turn to launch. The missiles explode on the next "phasing player's ordinance launch" phase. They're considered to stay with and move with the target.[3]

  • Each missile does 1 hit of damage on the target. Use the rule of a DM of -4 against the hit table. [4]

Now there's some things to suss out here and I'm going to have to play through this, but this is what I got so far. In my head, I see competing waves of fighters being launched at each other, to meet in the middle and duke it out, while there's a defensive screen waiting for the missile-boats to show up. 

If those fighters get through the screens though... 

We'll see how this works out!

[1] See: for an example of the challenges of combat in space

[2] That's not to say they might not meet an alien race that has lasers. We'll see. 

[3] I don't want to try to track 10 individual missile vectors launched by fighters in contact with the target. If the target's anti-missile fire and fighter screens can't eliminate the missile launchers... well... the target's gonna have a bad day.

[4] I consider the missiles fired the larger ships to be ... well... larger. Perhaps even like nukes. C'mon, this is pew-pew-pew here. If I wanted space simulation, I'd be playing something a lot more complex. 


  1. Have you shared any of those "referee's guides?" Sounds like a good idea.

    1. I kinda did, when I published the Swords & Wizardry Ref Sheets and S&W White Box Ref sheets - I took what I had and made those more like the sheets that came with OD&D.

      This one, though, it's so tuned for my BSG/Traveller mashup, I'm not sure it would make much sense to someone else running standard Traveller?


Post a Comment