Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Full Thrust NAC Fort Carstairs-class Auxiliary Warship

The First Xeno War saw ever-increasing demand for ships to escort of refugee and merchant convoys, as well as to provide defense for troopship and fleet auxiliary formations.  With ship losses against the Kra'Vak invasion at an all-time high the New Anglian Confederation Fleet Command found itself stretched thin and struggling to fulfill all its duties.  It was in this desperate time that the Fort Carstairs-class auxiliary warship was conceived.     
 
 
The NAC (like all the major powers) had experimented with armed versions of its standard Fort Grange-class fleet auxiliaries.  These were simple conversions of the basic designs, bolting on a few medium beam weapons and adding some fire control electronics for self defense.  The result was not, in any way, a warship, but it was capable of defending itself to limited degree against light raiders and pirate ships.

 
The Fort Carstairs class (named for the prototype ship, a converted Fort Grange hull) was a far more ambitious conversion.  The ship's spine was heavily reinforced and six custom-built weapon pods were installed in place of the standard cargo modules.  Each carried power generators, point defense systems, fire control scanners, screen emitters, and a capital-grade beam turret with 180 degree traverse.  The ship also received significant electronics and software upgrades and a greatly expanded crew of damage control specialists and drones.   The ship's mobility was still limited by her underpowered civilian drives and inertial dampeners, but her weapons were arranged so that half her guns could bear on any approach angle.

 
The intent was to create a large auxiliary warship that could provide the kind of heavy support needed by lighter convoy escorts when faced with serious opposition, thereby freeing up proper cruisers to support the battle line and conduct long-range scouting and raiding missions.  As a conversion of an existing design the class was expected to be cheaper and easier to construct than building a warship from the keel up, and combat task force losses had mounted to the point where there were quite a few "excess" fleet tenders in inventory - the Kra'Vak never having prioritized gunning for auxiliary support ships the way human navies did.   

 
Unfortunately, the extensive conversion work required proved to be just as expensive as a small newly-built capital ship would have been, and while the process was slightly faster than keel-up construction would have been it was notably slower than simply building several heavy or mid-weight escorts simultaneously would have been.  The Fort Carstairs' actual combat performance was extremely variable but generally not what was hoped for out of such an large vessel.  The project wasn't quite an outright failure and several examples of the class were built, but they didn't relieve anywhere near as much pressure for convoy escort duty as had been projected. 

 
Fort Carstairs-class Auxiliary Warship
TMF 104
NPV 370 / CPV 374
Thrust 2
q 1 q
FTL
q
Level 1 Screen q
3 Fire Controls
qqq
ADFC q
6 PDS
qqqqqq
6 Class 3 Beam Batteries (F/FS/FP)
q (F/FS/AS) q (F/FP/AP) q (A/AS/AP) q (A/FS/AS) q (A/FP/AP) q
1 Class 1 Beam Battery (All Arcs) qq
Hull 31 (8/8/8/7) - 6 crew units, one every 6th box
qqqqqpqq
qqqpqqqq
qpqqqqqp
qqqqqpp

 
The stats above assume the ship lived up to its performance on paper.  There were serious concerns that, extensive refit or no, the end result would be prone to breakdowns and cascading system failures after taking even minor damage.  The complexities of tying together multiple weapon pods to what was originally a support ship's hull and computer networks were enormous, and the design was intended to be built quickly and often in secondary and tertiary shipyard facilities.  If you'd rather be pessimistic about the Fort Carstairs design, use the rules for six-row hulls from the link and the (much worse, but slightly cheaper) stats below:
 
 

Fort Carstairs-class Auxiliary Warship

TMF 104
NPV 343 / CPV 339
Thrust 2
q 1 q
FTL
q
Level 1 Screen q
3 Fire Controls
qqq
ADFC q
6 PDS
qqqqqq
6 Class 3 Beam Batteries (F/FS/FP)
q (F/FS/AS) q (F/FP/AP) q (A/AS/AP) q (A/FS/AS) q (A/FP/AP) q

1 Class 1 Beam Battery (All Arcs) qq
Hull 31 (6/5/5/5/5/5) - 6 crew units, one every 6th box
qqqqqp
qqqqq
pqqqq
qpqqq
qqpqq
qqqpp

 
 Now, either version of the stats above is probably going to be fairly weak in most situations.  I was trying for a fluffy, low-power, matches-the-model build on this thing, which leaves you with a ship that costs about as much as standard battlecruiser but will almost always do less work than one.  It's true that half the guns on a Fort Carstairs will bear on any target, but the other half are often going to have nothing in arc to shoot at due to low maneuverability and the way most games play out.  The ship was intended to sit in the middle of  clump of equally slow freighters and discourage attacks, but careful enemies will avoid spreading out too much and letting more than three turrets fire at once.  Which is fine for something that's supposed to be kind of questionably effective, but some people might want something a little more imposing.
 
So, you could ignore the text about "capital grade beam turrets" and use the stat block below.  This is basically similar in cost and lacks the long range of the beam-3 versions, but it instead mounts nothing but 360 degree beam-2 mounts.  Twelve of them, to be precise.
 

Fort Carstairs-class Auxiliary Warship
TMF 104
NPV 371 / CPV 375
Thrust 2
q 1 q
FTL
q
Level 1 Screen q
4 Fire Controls
qqqq
ADFC q
6 PDS
qqqqqq
12 Class 2 Beam Batteries (All Arcs
) qqqqqqqqqqqq

Hull 31 (8/8/8/7) - 6 crew units, one every 6th box
qqqqqpqq
qqqpqqqq
qpqqqqqp
qqqqqpp
 
Now, the turrets on the model clearly don't all have 360 degree firing arcs, but we can assume the ship is rolling, pitching and yawing slightly to bring guns to bear as needed.  One drawback to this ship is the lack of longer range guns, but the kind of pirates and raiders she's intended to fight don't sport tons of beam-3 mounts to start with.  If the enemy does spend the time to slowly chip a Carstairs to death from 25+ MU away they're giving plenty of time for the convoy to scatter or unexpected reinforcements to show up. 
 
The other more important drawback is that this ship would be terminally boring to play.  No maneuvering really required, just a matter of prioritizing what targets to kill first.  Some people might enjoy just rolling 12-24 beam dice a turn with minimal thought required but me, I find the very idea dull.  I also question just how well a thrust-2 pig of a ship can really expect to roll, pitch and yaw to bring six different turrets to bear on moving turrets.  This thing started life as a glorified freighter and the refits didn't involve the engines, after all.  So, if you want to use the "good" version of the Carstairs stat block, I suggest the following house rule: 
 
When firing with this ship, first declare what target each Fire Control System is assigned to.  Then, in any order you like, roll 1d6 x2 for each target and assign a number of beam-2 mounts (each of which generates 2 dice out to 12 MU, 1 die out to 24 MU) to that target.  Do this for each target in turn, but no matter what your die rolls are you can't assign more beam mounts than the number you currently have operational.  If damage has reduced your number of active beam-2 mounts to six or less, roll 1d6 instead of 1d6 x 2 per fire control, with the same limitation that you cannot assign more mounts than you have.
 
This will require at least a little thought about how to allocate fire.  Rolling high on the first FCS could let you shoot everything at one target, but then you shoot nothing at anything else.  But if you don't assign all your guns to an early high roll, you might crap out on later ones and wind up spreading your fire around ineffectively or even not being able to use all your guns if you roll incredibly badly.  Initially you're guaranteed 8 shots (minimum of 2 per FCS), but if you lose fire controls faster than beams the possibility of having some guns unable to shoot rises quickly.