SPACDrones (Space Combat Drones)
NOTE:  I have no idea if these things are play balanced or not.  They're more
for Universe effect, like the Battleriders posted previously.   They're best
used in Campaigns, where the cost-effectiveness argument advantages/
disadvantages become even more important.

The SPACDrone concept is simple, a futuristic embodiment of the "Send a shell
instead of a man" principle from WWI.

A SPACDrone is a fully equipped spaceship, with no FTL Drive or human crew.
The ship is run either by the AI aboard the ship, or by remote control from
the mother ship.  Telemetry can be received by fibre-optic cable, 
or conventional radio broadcast.

Since SPACDrones carry no human crew, they are cheaper and more efficient
than the equivalent size ship (no need for life-support or crew 

Launching and support gear for a SPACDrone has half the mass of the drone
itself.  Install this on the "Mothership."   They cost twice the mass of
the drone to be installed.

e.g. Mothership support gear for a Mass 8 drone, would have mass 4, and cost
16 points.  

A SPACDrone cannot have a FTL Drive.  It has 90% of its mass available for
systems.   Build the ship in normal fashion, under these restrictions.
Round down in terms of mass restrictions i.e. a Mass 4 drone has 3 mass 
available for systems.  Every drone has a system called "Uplink Control/
Main AI".  This costs no mass, and 1.5 x mass points e.g. a mass 6 drone would 
have an Uplink/AI system worth nine points.  It presents the remote 
control/AI systems aboard the drone.  

When Drones are docked, reduce the available thrust of the carrying mother
ship by one.  

[Designer's Note:  You can get more complex here; I won't bother.  Playability
is the best part of this game.]

When free, Drones have two main - methods of operation:

1)  Remote Control.  This is usually performed through some combination
of cabling (if really close to the ship), and through broadcast 
medium (laser induction, conventional radio, etc.).  In this mode, the
drone can be flown like a normal ship.  However, the drone must remain within
12" of the mothership.  

In the standard FT universe, operation of a drone constitutes an active 
emission for sensor rules, and is vulnerable to ECM/Adv. ECM jamming.  
(For ECM jamming, jamming occurs on a roll of six from any source.  A jammed
drone has no uplink, and will either continue course and speed without firing,
or will carry out the last orders given to the AI.)

Of course, this can vary from Universe to Universe, depending on the relative
maturity of the technologies available.  Alter this rule to taste.  For 
example, in my universe, materials technology is advanced enough, and the
scale is small enough, that a direct fibre-optic cable link is possible at
playable ranges.  Such a link is inherently "stealthy" and ECM resistant, 
changing the rule above.  YMMV. 

2)  AI control.  The player writes down an order, and the drone must
carry that order out.  The order must be simple, like:
Attack target X.  Protect ship Y.  etc.
Use common sense here.  The drone is NOT as smart as a human crew.

When drones are launched, the have the velocity and heading of the mother
ship.  They can be launched in any mode.

In order to dock drones, you must match course and be within two velocity
units of the mother ship.  If you can come within two inches of the ship,
then you are considered docked.    

Drones can be used on ramming attacks without a morale check; after all, they
have no crew.  However, they have their own problems: drone AI's aren't the
greatest in the world, and there can be interfernce and lag on the uplink, 
which increases the difficulty of an already difficult operation.

A drone ram succeeds only if the drone thrust, plus die roll, exceeds the
targets die roll by four.  

[Designer Note:  I know this still has the potential of being unbalancing; 
but it is a potential tactic and has to be addressed.  If you're really 
worried about it, or playing one-off games where the loss of a 47 point 
drone to do 2d6 or 3d6 worth of damage can't be penalized on the campaign scale,
then disallow ramming attacks by drones.  Or make them hideously more 
expensive (though, people aren't likely to use them at all at that point.)

Another option would be to create some sort of point defence rule for 
ramming.  Since drones are fairly small, they would be vulnerable to last
minute fire from a ship.  In any case, balance as you would like it done.]

Drones with expendables can be reloaded by their Mothership, but only
after the battle is complete.  This is limited to things such as 
fuel, Scatterpacks, Submunition Packs, and other non-missile weapons.
Reloading missiles requires a purpose-built tender (improvise your own
rules), or a starbase.

The Uplink/AI system is vulnerable to damage from needle beams and threshold
checks, but it must take damage twice or fail two checks, or some combination
inbetween to render the system destroyed.  One hit does not degenerate
performance in any appreciable way (damn those backup systems.  (8-) )  
A system with no uplink/AI is unable to maneuver or fire - it is essentially
dead in space.

EXAMPLE: Superdreadnought modified for SPACDrones, replacing fighters.

Superdreadnought Mother Ship    Mass	Pts
Mass: 80 				160
DP: 40 
Thrust: 2 			        320
FTL - Drive				 80
3 Firecons			40 avail for systems
4 x PDAF			 4       12
3 x Screens                      9       75
2 x A-bat (F/P)			 6       20
2 x A-bat (F/S)                  6       20
1 x A-bat (F/P/S)                3       13
4 x 6-mass SPACDrone Rack       12       48

Total Points: 588

(Note, one 6-mass SPACDrone rack has Mass 3 and costs 12 points)

6-mass SPACDrone		Mass	Pts
Mass: 6					12
DP: 3					
Thrust: 8				12
Uplink/AI				 9 
1 Firecon 			5 avail for systems
3 Submunition Packs	          3      9
2 C-bats (F/P) (F/S)              2      8

Total Points: 50 

Total points of combination: 588 + 50x4 = 788 points

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Changed: Thu Oct 2 15:09:31 EDT 1997