Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

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Steelinghades
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Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Steelinghades » 2019-06-21 10:03pm

Greeting all, I've started writing a mil sci fi series and having come up with the current drive details I'm going to go with, I'd like to share them with you fine folks and hear your thoughts on how combat should logically play out given the engine details.

In essence, there are two drives on a star ship, the acceleration drive and the phase drive. The acceleration drives is a fairly standard reaction drive capable of propelling a ship at accelerations of 200-600 gees depending on how heavy the ship in question is. The phase drive by comparison doesn't accelerate a ship, instead it uses--let's say gravity for now--to allow a ship to maneuver almost like a fighter jet in atmosphere, the problem of course comes in that as ships get bigger they can't handle higher speeds with the phase drive, thus maneuverable corvettes and lumbering battleships.

The question of course is what would combat look like between these ships?

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Solauren » 2019-06-21 10:32pm

You already said it. Like Fighter Jets in an atmosphere.

The larger battleships would probably handle like large aircraft liners, while as ships got smaller, they would get more and more maneuverable, and closer to high speed jet fighters / video game starfighters.

In many ways, that would be like Starship combat in the Star Trek "TNG" era shows.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Batman » 2019-06-21 10:38pm

With reaction drives that powerful they'd be significantly MORE maneuverable sticking with the reaction drives.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2019-06-21 11:34pm

Steelinghades wrote:
2019-06-21 10:03pm
Greeting all, I've started writing a mil sci fi series and having come up with the current drive details I'm going to go with, I'd like to share them with you fine folks and hear your thoughts on how combat should logically play out given the engine details.

In essence, there are two drives on a star ship, the acceleration drive and the phase drive. The acceleration drives is a fairly standard reaction drive capable of propelling a ship at accelerations of 200-600 gees depending on how heavy the ship in question is. The phase drive by comparison doesn't accelerate a ship, instead it uses--let's say gravity for now--to allow a ship to maneuver almost like a fighter jet in atmosphere, the problem of course comes in that as ships get bigger they can't handle higher speeds with the phase drive, thus maneuverable corvettes and lumbering battleships.

The question of course is what would combat look like between these ships?
Like modern naval combat except in three dimensions, I suppose. Lighter ships being used for pursuit/raiding and recon, and to screen the big lumbering battleships. Although the battleships would probably be more like carriers, or battleship/carrier hybrids (which is much more doable in space, as one side of the vessel doesn't have to be underwater, and you don't need a huge runway for space fighters to take off and land). The big cliche I'd advise you to watch out for, off the top of my head, is spacecraft oriented like ocean-going ships, with all the guns on the top of the hull, the bridge top and center, etc. There's no reason for that on a spaceship, obviously, except dated style.

So basically Star Wars or NBSG space combat with a different coat of paint, though you might get something a bit more original if you really explore the implications of the gravity manipulation tech.- for example, can it be used to slow or deflect incoming fire, ie shields (otherwise, I doubt having big, easily-targeted ships in direct combat would be viable)? Does it include "inertial dampener"-type technology? Could you modify the gravity drive to propel the ship on its own if the main drive was damaged? Etc. Though Weber already played around with gravity manipulation in the Honor Harrington series, to name just one.

Which brings me to my problem with your concept, if you'll excuse the criticism. I have to say that it irks me sometimes when authors go out of their way to create complicated technobabble systems to justify making space combat "20th. Century naval combat, but in space", or whatever (David Webber with Honor Harrington is probably the most blatant and notorious offender, though in his case it started out more as "Napoleonic naval combat in space" and evolved from there). To me, it feels contrived, and a waste of the setting.

Now, if you want to just do a "rule of cool"/style over substance story, fine. But then you don't really need to justify or explain it, in my opinion. Just think through the implications, keep your nonsense more or less consistent with itself, and you're good to go.

And of course, in the end, theme and character and plot development will always matter more to a story's quality than technical minutia.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Jub » 2019-06-21 11:46pm

As Batman said, you'd only really care about the phase drive if you can use it at full burn, otherwise trying to use it (outside of maybe the occasional snap turn) would make you a sitting duck. Plus, unless your small ships have the top end of that acceleration range and the larger ships are at the lower end your smaller ships may end up unable to catch up to anything. You also need to consider the endurance of your ships, can they sustain those speeds or do they prefer a dash and coast method to conserve limited fuel reserves.

Ask yourself, what the role of your smaller ships is in a fleet action. If they can significantly damage your larger ships you end up with a carrier force surrounded by escorts, if they have trouble doing that kind of damage they may only be useful as hard(er) to hit sensor clusters that can defend themselves. This will also heavily shape what a fleet action looks like.

Lastly, you need to consider where and why combat is happening? Combat in deep space fought over trade lanes is going to look different than a combat action to defend a homeworld against long-range bombardment. FTL, especially very fast FTL, versus having to spend a couple of years in transit will also shape your combat both in what gets sent and how often fights occur. If your FTL has chokepoints like wormholes of hyperspace lanes that will also shake up what combat looks like.

There are other things like which weapons types are common, do you have FTL sensors/comms, how long does it take to build a big ship, etc. that you should also flesh out before we can give you much feedback on what your fleet combat will look like.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2019-06-21 11:55pm

Jub wrote:
2019-06-21 11:46pm
Ask yourself, what the role of your smaller ships is in a fleet action. If they can significantly damage your larger ships you end up with a carrier force surrounded by escorts, if they have trouble doing that kind of damage they may only be useful as hard(er) to hit sensor clusters that can defend themselves. This will also heavily shape what a fleet action looks like.
This is part of why I asked about the presence of shields. If the big ships don't have at least the durability to tank nuke hits (or the defenses to evade or shoot down missiles reliably before they reach their target), then letting them get close to an enemy is going to be suicide. And then you won't have battleships- you'll have carriers (presuming the small ships are strictly limited in endurance/range) and fighter duels.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Esquire » 2019-06-22 01:44am

What I think is up is that major warship mount both drive systems. Aircraft are not more maneuverable in any way, shape, or form; reaction drive-driven craft in a vacuum are vastly better than anything plausibly described as 'like aircraft.' The benefit of the phase drive lies 100% in the higher speed (this should be higher acceleration, by-the-by, there being no maximum speed in space except C without handwaving) allowed, and so cruisers, fighters, and battleships alike will use phase drive to accelerate to combat speeds (whatever their hulls can take) and then reaction drive for maneuvering, broadly speaking.

It isn't insane to imagine that there simply aren't any lumbering battleships around, for that matter, and everything is corvette-sized or smaller - it depends on the weapons and protective technologies you have in mind. If it's primarily strong weapons and weak armor, probably ships are small, fast, and disposable; if shields are a thing or armor can usually withstand a lot of missile/cannon/laser bursts, then increased durability might be worth decreased speed and maneuverability.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Jub » 2019-06-22 01:53am

Esquire wrote:
2019-06-22 01:44am
What I think is up is that major warship mount both drive systems. Aircraft are not more maneuverable in any way, shape, or form; reaction drive-driven craft in a vacuum are vastly better than anything plausibly described as 'like aircraft.' The benefit of the phase drive lies 100% in the higher speed (this should be higher acceleration, by-the-by, there being no maximum speed in space except C without handwaving) allowed, and so cruisers, fighters, and battleships alike will use phase drive to accelerate to combat speeds (whatever their hulls can take) and then reaction drive for maneuvering, broadly speaking.

It isn't insane to imagine that there simply aren't any lumbering battleships around, for that matter, and everything is corvette-sized or smaller - it depends on the weapons and protective technologies you have in mind. If it's primarily strong weapons and weak armor, probably ships are small, fast, and disposable; if shields are a thing or armor can usually withstand a lot of missile/cannon/laser bursts, then increased durability might be worth decreased speed and maneuverability.
There are some advantages to maneuvering like an airplane in space with the chief among them being the ability to conserve momentum in turns as well as being able to double back on your current heading without flipping, burning to a stop, and then starting forward again. If you can choose which mode to use you get the advantages of both types of flight which makes for some wickedly maneuverable craft.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Lord Revan » 2019-06-22 08:46am

Something to remember is that you'll pretty much always be fighting "near" some stellar body, most likely a planet(oid), so it's size and gravity will effect how battles are fought. Something that irks me a lot is battles at a random patch of deep space, deep space in and of itself would be worthless and space is so wast that chances of 2 fleets "accidently" running into each other is pretty much non-existant.

The fact you'll be fighting near large stellar objects as rule of thumb does create a degree of "terrain" into space combat and you should consider how does that effect your battles. For example the area near a large stellar object like a planet or a star could be considered "shallows"(to borrow a nautical term) that limits the maneuverbility of spacecraft, but at the same time makes *technobabble* based sensors less effective, so battles would involve trying to exploit this fact to your own benefit while trying to rob that benefit from the enemy.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2019-06-22 04:20pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2019-06-22 08:46am
Something to remember is that you'll pretty much always be fighting "near" some stellar body, most likely a planet(oid), so it's size and gravity will effect how battles are fought. Something that irks me a lot is battles at a random patch of deep space, deep space in and of itself would be worthless and space is so wast that chances of 2 fleets "accidently" running into each other is pretty much non-existant.
However, a fleet might choose to intercept an enemy fleet in deep space, rather than fight in proximity to a planet and risk the kind of collateral damage nukes and relativistic weapons would cause.
The fact you'll be fighting near large stellar objects as rule of thumb does create a degree of "terrain" into space combat and you should consider how does that effect your battles. For example the area near a large stellar object like a planet or a star could be considered "shallows"(to borrow a nautical term) that limits the maneuverbility of spacecraft, but at the same time makes *technobabble* based sensors less effective, so battles would involve trying to exploit this fact to your own benefit while trying to rob that benefit from the enemy.
Tactical disadvantages to fighting near a planet might be another reason why two forces would choose to engage in deep space, where their mobility and ability to detect the enemy without interference from other sources would be maximized. Of course, a less powerful force might prefer to seek battle near a planet, if it would limit a superior enemy's maneuverability and/or provide them some cover.

Edit: A more unscrupulous foe might also seek to use an inhabited planet as cover, fighting in close proximity to the planet to force an enemy to either hold off on using their heaviest weapons, or risk the aforementioned massive collateral damage. Basically, use of human shields on a grand scale.
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Jub » 2019-06-22 05:19pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2019-06-22 08:46am
The fact you'll be fighting near large stellar objects as rule of thumb does create a degree of "terrain" into space combat and you should consider how does that effect your battles. For example the area near a large stellar object like a planet or a star could be considered "shallows"(to borrow a nautical term) that limits the maneuverbility of spacecraft, but at the same time makes *technobabble* based sensors less effective, so battles would involve trying to exploit this fact to your own benefit while trying to rob that benefit from the enemy.
200 to 600 G acceleration makes a gravity well pretty trivial to maneuver in with any kind of engine endurance. Also near is a relative term. 'Near to the Sun' could mean a 1 AU distance,the asteroid belt distance of 2 to 3 AU, maybe out at the Kuiper belt from 30 to 50 AU out, heck you could fight out in the Oort cloud 2,000 to 200,000 AU out from a star. At some of those distances, absent the presence of a planet (or planetary mass megastructure) you might as well be in deep space.

There could also be battles in systems completely mined out and full of ceres sized or smaller space habitats set a few AU out from a star. The only other objects being debris or waste too hazardous to keep aboard a habitat. In such a case gravity doesn't need to play a large role.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Lord Revan » 2019-06-22 07:26pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-06-22 04:20pm
Lord Revan wrote:
2019-06-22 08:46am
Something to remember is that you'll pretty much always be fighting "near" some stellar body, most likely a planet(oid), so it's size and gravity will effect how battles are fought. Something that irks me a lot is battles at a random patch of deep space, deep space in and of itself would be worthless and space is so wast that chances of 2 fleets "accidently" running into each other is pretty much non-existant.
However, a fleet might choose to intercept an enemy fleet in deep space, rather than fight in proximity to a planet and risk the kind of collateral damage nukes and relativistic weapons would cause.
Space is wast and trying to intercept a fleet that doesn't want to be intercepted can be rather hard (after all you'll need to know exactly where they're heading in a 3D space while all they need is a route that avoids your fleet and ends up in the system they want).
The fact you'll be fighting near large stellar objects as rule of thumb does create a degree of "terrain" into space combat and you should consider how does that effect your battles. For example the area near a large stellar object like a planet or a star could be considered "shallows"(to borrow a nautical term) that limits the maneuverbility of spacecraft, but at the same time makes *technobabble* based sensors less effective, so battles would involve trying to exploit this fact to your own benefit while trying to rob that benefit from the enemy.
Tactical disadvantages to fighting near a planet might be another reason why two forces would choose to engage in deep space, where their mobility and ability to detect the enemy without interference from other sources would be maximized. Of course, a less powerful force might prefer to seek battle near a planet, if it would limit a superior enemy's maneuverability and/or provide them some cover.

Edit: A more unscrupulous foe might also seek to use an inhabited planet as cover, fighting in close proximity to the planet to force an enemy to either hold off on using their heaviest weapons, or risk the aforementioned massive collateral damage. Basically, use of human shields on a grand scale.
Obviously it's not a "you absolutely must have this" thing but rather something to consider (people love an underdog story after all) and as Jub pointed out "near" is a relative term so "near a planet" doesn't have to mean "at low orbit".
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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Steelinghades » 2019-06-22 08:31pm

Jub wrote:
2019-06-21 11:46pm
As Batman said, you'd only really care about the phase drive if you can use it at full burn, otherwise trying to use it (outside of maybe the occasional snap turn) would make you a sitting duck. Plus, unless your small ships have the top end of that acceleration range and the larger ships are at the lower end your smaller ships may end up unable to catch up to anything. You also need to consider the endurance of your ships, can they sustain those speeds or do they prefer a dash and coast method to conserve limited fuel reserves.
A ship can maintain those speeds, 200 g for the largest, for hours, but for actual inter system travel they only travel at half the speed.
Jub wrote:
2019-06-21 11:46pm

Lastly, you need to consider where and why combat is happening? Combat in deep space fought over trade lanes is going to look different than a combat action to defend a homeworld against long-range bombardment. FTL, especially very fast FTL, versus having to spend a couple of years in transit will also shape your combat both in what gets sent and how often fights occur. If your FTL has chokepoints like wormholes of hyperspace lanes that will also shake up what combat looks like.

There are other things like which weapons types are common, do you have FTL sensors/comms, how long does it take to build a big ship, etc. that you should also flesh out before we can give you much feedback on what your fleet combat will look like.
There are no choke points via their FTL system and it's capable of four parsecs a day.

Common weapons include missiles and guided kinetics with DEWs being rarer.

They have FTL sensors our to a light hour, though stealthy systems do exist.

As for construction times, smaller fleet escorts can be built in around fourteen to eighteen months on average, primary fleet combat vessels from twenty four to thirty six months on average and fleet capital vessels can take up to eighty to one hundred months.
The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-06-21 11:55pm
Jub wrote:
2019-06-21 11:46pm
Ask yourself, what the role of your smaller ships is in a fleet action. If they can significantly damage your larger ships you end up with a carrier force surrounded by escorts, if they have trouble doing that kind of damage they may only be useful as hard(er) to hit sensor clusters that can defend themselves. This will also heavily shape what a fleet action looks like.
This is part of why I asked about the presence of shields. If the big ships don't have at least the durability to tank nuke hits (or the defenses to evade or shoot down missiles reliably before they reach their target), then letting them get close to an enemy is going to be suicide. And then you won't have battleships- you'll have carriers (presuming the small ships are strictly limited in endurance/range) and fighter duels.
Gravity based shields do exist and are effective against most weapons except lasers who can get through with some of their energy left.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Jub » 2019-06-23 04:06am

Steelinghades wrote:
2019-06-22 08:31pm
A ship can maintain those speeds, 200 g for the largest, for hours, but for actual inter system travel they only travel at half the speed.
I'd almost expect a sort of joust then. The attacking ships drop out of the system a few hours out and accelerate to 5 to 10% of light speed, before cutting the main engines and using reaction thrusters and phase drives for course changes. You open up with long-range volleys with DEWs hoping to score lucky hits, launch missiles on approach, and try to time kinetic kill weapons to slam past gravity shields as you scream past. Then you use phase drive to flip your direction keeping up your momentum and line up for the next pass.

Fighters might not be so useful here unless they're AI run or the pilots are somehow enhanced to where they can think at several hundreds of times current human speeds.
There are no choke points via their FTL system and it's capable of four parsecs a day.

Common weapons include missiles and guided kinetics with DEWs being rarer.

They have FTL sensors our to a light hour, though stealthy systems do exist.
So fights mostly happen around big important stuff that one side wants to take, mostly intact, from the other side?
As for construction times, smaller fleet escorts can be built in around fourteen to eighteen months on average, primary fleet combat vessels from twenty four to thirty six months on average and fleet capital vessels can take up to eighty to one hundred months.
So modern capital ship build times and thus relative levels of loss. Make it easy for readers to grok how much a battle cost each side.
Gravity based shields do exist and are effective against most weapons except lasers who can get through with some of their energy left.
Is the way around shields to overwhelms them with mass fire and hope something slips through, going wide with things like wide beam nuked pumped particle beams, or is it being tricky/accurate to shoot where the shield isn't currently in a position to defend?

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Steelinghades » 2019-06-23 09:41am

Jub wrote:
2019-06-23 04:06am
Is the way around shields to overwhelms them with mass fire and hope something slips through, going wide with things like wide beam nuked pumped particle beams, or is it being tricky/accurate to shoot where the shield isn't currently in a position to defend?
The latter, for a shield to actually provide notable defence it has to be directed along a certain axis of attack. They are capable of maintaining a bubble shield, but it's far less effective, being only capable of slowing down kinetics or missiles and not stopping them.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Steelinghades » 2019-06-27 06:21pm

Jub wrote:
2019-06-23 04:06am
[quote wrote:There are no choke points via their FTL system and it's capable of four parsecs a day.

Common weapons include missiles and guided kinetics with DEWs being rarer.

They have FTL sensors our to a light hour, though stealthy systems do exist.
So fights mostly happen around big important stuff that one side wants to take, mostly intact, from the other side?
Sometimes yes, though since those important items could have their own heavy defences, battles also happen away from such important items, as one fleet raids and does other actions forcing an engagement on their terms.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Jub » 2019-06-27 08:31pm

Steelinghades wrote:
2019-06-27 06:21pm
Sometimes yes, though since those important items could have their own heavy defences, battles also happen away from such important items, as one fleet raids and does other actions forcing an engagement on their terms.
Yeah, I wouldn't expect the battle to happen in orbit but they could take place within the 100,000 AU radius of a star that we define as the edge of a solar system.
Steelinghades wrote:
2019-06-23 09:41am
The latter, for a shield to actually provide notable defence it has to be directed along a certain axis of attack. They are capable of maintaining a bubble shield, but it's far less effective, being only capable of slowing down kinetics or missiles and not stopping them.
That leaves two strategies, pound them with big stuff and hope they slip up so you can score a significant blow, or swarm ships trying to bring as much firepower as you can onto a ship from different angles. Duels become tense jousts, pass after pass each side looks to slip a shot through the shield and other point defences all while keeping their momentum up to dodge or escape with.

There's also the slim chance of a sneaky kill, a stealth ship shows up and drops off some equally stealthy missiles or drones into a debris field. These wait until a ship is within a range that their shields can't be brought to bear and fire defeating their defenses by taking them unaware.

It'll end up being a mix of modern naval action and dashing air to air maneuver combat. Every pass could lead to nothing or could lead to a kill so you're never safe until the last enemy has been routed or destroyed.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Patroklos » 2019-07-14 04:21pm

The OP says “like aircraft” which I take to mean akin to banking forces (aka SW X-wings) and when the engine stops so does the ship (99% of othe ass media Sci-fi). So some sort of arrangement where a medium and fluid dynamics apply?

Because what it sounds like to me is you don’t have to drives. Instead you have a reaction drive and a reactionless brake.

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Re: Help with designing a sci fi combat paragon.

Post by Knife » 2019-07-20 09:39am

What is the range of these vessels? Does one drive take more fuel than the other? Do small ships have the same range as the bigger ones or does it scale with fuel?
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