Colonial Military Equipment (Part 1): Spacecraft Equipment

The corebook covers the basics of Vipers and Raptors, and capital ships, but it was a first generation set of rules that never got cleaned up by Margaret Weis Publishing with the promised Colonial Military sourcebook. There’s a lot of wiggle room purposefully built in — this is not a combat simulation game; it’s a role playing game…but a bit of crunch might help with verisimilitude. So here goes…

In addition to the usual cannons and missiles that the light spacecraft of the Colonial Fleet employ, there are other important bits of gear that can save a pilot’s life:

Sparrows and Jiggers

“Sparrows” are the name of flare packages that both Vipers and Raptors employ for their protection. Designed to confuse and lure a missile away from their intended target, they use intense heat and visible light to combat an infrared or optical lock-on.

In game terms, a sparrow gives the pilot an opportunity (as an additional action to or replacement action for evasion) to roll a INTELLIGENCE+TECHNICAL ENGINEERING/ELECTRONIC WARFARE test. If they can beat the original gunnery roll of the enemy craft, the sparrow lures off the missile.

Jiggers are special chaff packages that shred themselves as they are launched, creating interference, and can be used to distract DRADIS-seeking missiles. In game terms, there’s very little difference between the two, but the GM could use IR vs. DRADIS missiles to give a bit more sense of realism.

Vipers typically carry two of each in the undercarriage of their vehicle, back near the engines. Raptors carry six of each.

Electronic Warfare

A new specialty for characters is Technical Engineering/Electronic Warfare. The characters use this to detect signals (SIGINT) and electronic emissions (ELINT.) The characters can do things with this skill like identify the EM or jump signature of a vessel, tell if the ship is under power or not, the temperature aboard, electronic activity that would allow anti-radiation missiles to lock on to the craft. They can also use it to identify open data ports and use the vessel’s communications to try and gain access to the vessel’s computer. (This requires a successful HARD Electronic Warfare test and a Hacking test vs. the INT+WIL of the ship, or the ALERTNESS+TECH ENGINEERING/COMMUNICATIONS or ELECTRONIC WARFARE of the target vessel’s communications or data control officer. Not all vessels have open ports, or they are only open during communications.)

The other use for Electronic Warfare is to jam communications, missile systems, etc. This is difficult, depending on the range to target, their shielding, and the frequencies covered.) In combat, jamming operations will often disturb friendly, as well as enemy communications unless the raptor’s ECO (or vessels EW specialists) can fix on the proper frequencies — a HARD  ALERTNESS+TECH ENGINEERING/COMMUNICATIONS or EW test. Once located, they can attempt to jam communications (thus rendering any benefits from a command and control element ineffective.)

Example: One Nite is the EW bird for a skirmish between Eagle Squadron and the Cylons. Her ECO, Drippy, has managed to isolate the Cylons’ communications (coded, of course and nearly impossible to break.) She takes over and attempts to jam Cylon communications and succeeds. Until they can re-establish communications, the Cylon squadron commander can no longer coordinate attacks, giving Eagle Squadron initiative each turn until the jamming stops or rendered ineffective.

There’s a problem with jamming — the jamming vessel is often completely blinded to incoming communications and can have their DRADIS array likewise jammed. They are also the brightest EM signature on the battlefield. While jamming, any unit targeting them gets a +2 shift to their PILOT or HEAVY WEAPON test to shoot the raptor.

This makes raptors a much more important part of the battlefield in a Batlestar Galactica game; they can easily turn the tide, as much as a Viper.

Decoys, Jammers, and other EW Weapons

During the rescue of the Colonials from New Caprica, we see the raptors use a new weapon they had not in other episodes — decoys. These are essentially missiles that are programmed to send out an signature that approximates another vessel. It hammers out an electromagnetic signal that creates a DRADIS “reflection” and associated signals to confuse the enemy. They are only truly effective in environments where DRADIS and other sensors are suffering from interference — as in a nebula, the heliopause of a planet, etc. They are programmed by the ECO using INTELLIGENCE+TECH ENGINEERING/ELECTRONIC WARFARE. The ruse is discovered if the enemy beats the result with an ALERTNESS+PERCEPTION or ELECTRONIC WARFARE test. Each turn, the enemy gains a +1 shift to their skill die.

Similar are jammers — missiles that are packed with high-powered transmitters that create havoc on the electronic battlefield, much like jamming operations for a ship. The missiles are fast moving and can be programmed to run a straight line or a shifting course. They will act on missiles, DRADIS, and communications within skirmish range and operate for up to an hour.

Lastly, there are EMP generators. These large pulse coils send out a massive burst of electromagnetic energy that is designed to stun or disable electronic-controlled enemies (i.e., Cylons.) They have a range of skirmish and will effect any Cylons aboard a ship, or within range. Most vessels are hardened against the effects, but it is very effect against the centurions (due to scaling.) They do planetcraft-scale d8W. The downside, since they are often mounted inside a vessel as a last-ditch defense against boarding elements, the effects are felt by the firing vessel, as well.

(Lee Adama used one of these arrays, slaving it to the FTL drive to make it appear that a nuclear weapon had detonated and destroyed Colonial One. The EMP generator would have done d12S damage slaved to the FTL with a range of capital. Using the FTL to boost the signal apparently caused stun damage to the crew of Colonial One, as well.)

Missile Guidance

As with the rules for sparrows and jiggers, missiles might be IR, optical/laser guided, DRADIS, or anti-radiation homing. In practical terms, in space, none of this is going to matter too much. There’s a lot of open space and not a lot to distract a missile. But as with the sparow/jiggers, the GM might want the pilots to specify their load-out for a mission. One way to do this is if there is a specific target — say, a transmitter tower of a Cylon outpost — might make using anti-radiation missiles more effective (a +1 or +2 shift to their PILOT or HEAVY WEAPON test to hit the place. Then it might matter that the Cylon raiders aren’t excellent radiation sources, their stealthy hulls providing a -1 shift to the same to hit them with the missiles.

The Big Guns

Capital ships’ weapons are pretty hazily defined in the BSG RPG. We know their range and their scale for sure, but what about the number of guns that can come to bear? Partly, this could accounted for by having the commanding officer do an AVERAGE INTELLIGENCE or ALERTNESS+PERCEPTION/TACTICS test and give the gunnery crews a +1 shift to their skill for every three over the result. This would represent the number of batteries that could be brought to bear on a target. Step the CO’s difficulty up a level for each target they are trying to engage.

How much damage to the guns do?

There’s Table 6.4 on page 133 of the rulebook. This applies to vehicle/planetcraft scale — light weapons would be wepaons designed for vehicle defense against personnel, medium would be standard armaments, and heavy would be something akin to the 130mm cannon that a modern-day AC130 carries.

For point defense, typical AA guns and 40mm autocannons would be “heavy” (d12W damage), with medium being slower-fire guns like .50 machineguns. Light would be the equivalent of a battery of squad assault weapons trained on a vessel…they can do damage, but it might take a while to drop a marine landing shuttle.

At the spacecraft scale, we are talking about massive AA guns that explode and do flak damage to larger craft. We haven’t seen this in the show; they use their railguns for that, but there’s no reason your campaign couldn’t have some sort of dedicated battery of cannon/railgun that serve the purpose.

Railgun damage is covered on page 134 of the rulebook in Table 6.5. What kinds of cannons would vessels have? Figure for small vessels — tenders, medical ships, and other transports, they have light railguns. They need the space for other equipment and cargo. this would be the typical “defense” gun a civilian vessel might have gotten a license for.

Medium railguns would be typical on gunstars and light battlestars like Valkyrie. Once again, there could be volume issues for the magazines causing them to favor the lighter weaponry, or perhaps if they were built during a time where the Cylons were not viewed as the main threat, heavy cannons are considered overkill against pirates and smugglers. they also might be cheaper…you have to figure a battlestar is an expensive piece of equipment, and the government would save money wherever they could.

Heavy railguns are the stuff of main line battlestars.

Missile payloads aren’t always going to be the biggest baddest available. You don’t use a MOAB for a surgical strike, for instance… Light missiles on a light craft would be the equivalent of a TOW pod — something to use against small, lightly armored vehicles when in air support mode. For light missiles, give the pilots a benefit that works to use them — they provide a larger area of effect, say, than a heavier missile, as a light missile pod shoots multiple warheads at the same time. Medium missiles, of course, are the typical combat warheads, and heavy would be large anti-structure weapons designed to destroy buildings and the like.

Spacecraft scale missiles start with light — these would be typical anti-ship missiles carried by fighters. They are small in size, but big in bang. (Think a Martel or Exocet.) Medium missiles would be cannon-fired missiles, essentially guided railgun payloads capable of tracking a target. Heavy missiles would have their own dedicated silos or have to be fired from dedicated railgun batteries. These could also represent low-yield nuclear missiles (below, say, 1 MTn.) In addition to anti-spacecraft duty, they would be used for ground bombardment. Extreme would be the equivalent of 1Mtn+ fuel-air bombs (unusable in space) and nuclear payloads.

Nuclear Bombs in Atmosphere

Nuclear bombs are not especially devastating in space. Spacecraft are shielded against radiation, there is no atmosphere to create pressure waves. But planetside, in an atmosphere — BAD.

Here’s the damage caused by atomic/nuclear/thermobaric weapons. For each blast increment, half the damage (example: the Cylon use a 1 Mtn weapon on Caprica City. The damage rolled is 11. Every structure takes 11 points [usually enough to destroy most buildings] and vehicles 110, people dead if not in shelters… At 3 miles, the damage is 5 [round down] to structures — larger buildings will be severely damaged.)

 And because you need an idea of what you can destroy in game…