21 July 2018

Gaming Life Support

Over the [mutter mutter] decades I've been playing science fiction settings in RPGs, I've dealt with more than a couple ship design systems.

Life support, if it's mentioned at all, is handwaved as hard as the physics of a reactionless drive.

Some systems the life support is assumed with allocation of living space, like the bridge and staterooms.

Some systems purchase the system on a per-person-supported/per-time basis.

This is OK, but...

Most games also allow that cavernous hold to be habitable as well.

I've long thought that the life support system should be broken into two separate systems in the design chart.

The first is the volume of the system.  This covers the entire habitable volume of the ship and includes things like maintaining comfortable pressure, temperature and humidity.

The second is the capacity of the system.  This covers how many people's waste products can be filtered/scrubbed/recycled by the system.

For both we need to decide how efficient they are too.  Do I need to stock the pantry with food, or is the recycler so efficient that just adding some power changes all the outputs back into wholesome inputs.

Efficiency also has bearing on how often and how many consumables go with the system.

Does the food processor need tanks of goo every so often in addition to what it's recycling?

Does the air processor need new filters or scrubbers?  How often?

If I pack in too many people do I simply use more consumables at the same percentage increase?

Likewise, if I have fewer folks, do the consumables last longer?

It's a Gordian knot that I'm not going to untie by declaring numbers.


Because in LBB Traveller, life support is assumed.  The 4 dTon of a stateroom is actually 2.44 dTon of stateroom with the remaining 1.56 dTon being corridors, common space and life-support for two people.

Because in GURPS: Traveller, life support is bought erratically.  It comes with several berthing modules and can be bought separately.  Untangling the module system in GT to get back to the GURPS: Vehicles numbers it's based on is never simple or easy.  It's also divided into limited/full/total life support, and which comes with what berthing.  There's a reason I'm bald.

Because in GURPS: Interstellar Wars, life support comes with the berthing and 50% of the declared volume is the systems and access supporting the berthing.  Unlike GT, a partial slice of power plant isn't included so you have to add up power consumption then make sure you brought enough bottled sunshine.

I'm not entirely satisfied by how it's presented, but there's enough room for me as a GM to treat it like a distinct system and mess with the players about it.

PS: If you think this is eerily similar to Erin's post, it's because we were discussing it.

1 comment:

  1. And then there's the age-old question of how much spare air is stored away? 1 complete hull evacuation? 2? Can they synthesize 'air' from the powerplant fuel, and if so, how much fuel does that take per complete hull (filling all areas where air is normally found) fill?

    And how long does life support last if one only 'airs' the parts the people normally use, and force people going into the hold or non-engineering spaces to suit up?

    Questions like this can drive the GM batty.

    As to the goo for the food synth, I think that's covered on monthly expenses, maybe, possibly, in Classic Traveller. I always had the players buy extra food if they didn't want basic MRE type food. And 'Steward' skills I treated as kind of 'chef' skills.

    I made my players buy 'standard' consumables per the following formula: X(crew)+Y(live passengers)/week. Which made for fun times if they had too many people on-board walking around, like when they picked up people and had to double up.


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