Starships for Windows Manual

Ships III for Windows


This are just about the first proper instructions I've ever written for a piece of hobby software. If they're popular, though, I may branch out and document the others. Here we go, then.

I'll step through the screens, one by one, and hopefully explain how it all works. First of all though, a couple of points:

One word of advice straight off. After filling in the details on the Hull screen, take the time to save your design and give it a name. After that, save after each section screen. Just in case!

Design Sequence Options

Header Window

Ships III for Windows

This is the Header Window; it'll stick itself up at the top right of your screen and keeps you up-to-date with the resources available to fit your design into, and how well you are (or aren't) managing.

The top row shows the ship's name and category (Merchant, Gunboat, etc).

Below that are four boxes which list the values for KL (d-tons x13.5), d-tons, power in MW and hardpoints (weapon attachment sites). A button with "%" on it brings up a quick reference of what percentage of each is used - for the number-blind like me!

To the right, under the icon, is a status panel which will read Unsaved if changes have been made since the last save, or Saved if they haven't. If you try and quit or load without saving you'll be reminded anyway, of course. Below it is a little red/green lamp to indicate whether the design is "legal"; ie you haven't run out of KL, MW or hardpoints. The appropriate values in the boxes will also be red if this is the case.

Below that we have Tech Level, physical weight in real tons, cost in MegaCredits, Agility, and Cargo capacity - in other words, unused space - in dtons.

Hull and Basic Options

Ships III for Windows
Perhaps obviously, we start at the very beginning (a very fine place to start).
  • Tech Level. Choose the TL at which your ship is built here. Note a lot of things in the Recalculation stage depend on this, so altering it has very significant effects on your design!
  • Description. Self-explanatory really, give the thing a name and so on.
  • Displacement. Enter the number of d-tons the ship is to be. There isn't really a ceiling, but Traveller ships rarely come over 1MTons, and the systems start creaking over that.
  • Configuration. Select a standard shape from the list. Note that I've dropped Planetoid and Buffered Planetoid; nobody I know has ever used them.
  • Armour type and value. Select suitable armour compound for your tech level, then select a value. The list is in the old High Guard units for simplicity; to get an MT value you mutiply by 3 and add 40. Both are shown in the final profile of course.
  • Classification. Choose the basic definition of the ship's function. A word of advice here; create yourself a SHIPS directory somewhere to save into, then one under it for each category. It'll make things easier to find!


Ships III for Windows
In point of fact, Power is just about the last part of the design. You can't decide how big the plant needs to be until you have fitted everything else and know how much power you need. So I'll describe it here, but when you've done everything else, come back here and juggle plant size and duration around to get the MW to fit right.
  • Power Plant. Choose one to your taste and TL. Note that batteries below about TL E-F are pretty rubbish, so don't be surprised if you can't make things work with them.
  • Size in KL and Suggested. Give the size of the power plant here. Once you have some numbers in more places, it's going to start trying to suggest a suitable size for it here; bear in mind this is a recursive calculation (meaning it disappears up it's own arse) and it can suggest ridiculous numbers sometimes.
  • Hours of Endurance. This is how long the power plant can keep running before fuel is needed. Fuel volume for the power plant is calculated based on this number. See below, though!
  • Extended Endurance. This is a House Rule. The standard MegaTraveller calculations for power plant fuel involve adding up all the things that use power - except the Jump Drive - and dividing the ship's MW/h rating xhours endurance by that. This effectively mean that the ship's Endurance was calculated assuming the thing was flying along with all its' guns firing continuously, its's radios blaring on all frequencies, running continual active sensor scans, shields up, the backup computer and auxiliary bridge (if fitted) in operation as well as the primaries, and travelling at top balls-out sublight speed.
    ExtEnd allows the designer to calculate the duration of the ship with a selection of power-consuming options discounted, to arrive at a value for simply pootling along in-system. The idea is to approach as near the Classic Traveller idea of "four weeks maneuver" with the ExtEnd figure while keeping the full-throttle figure above zero.
    Once you've selected some options in the ExtEnd section of this screen, adjust the Hours of Endurance value up and down and see what happens. Note that some checkboxes are only available if the relevant features have been installed.
  • Check button. This allows you to do a recalculate of the design from here, so you can check the results shown on the header without having to come out of the Power screen.


Ships III for Windows
Here you install engines for your ship. Quite often, you'll find that you start off with quite optimistic settings, only to be dragged back here to rack them down to get rid of those red numbers at the top...
  • Jump Drive. Select a Jump Drive size here. Jump-0 is available for non-Jump-Capable spaceships. And no, I have no plans to include Portal Opener drives or Stutterwarps in here.
  • Maneuver Drive. Select an acceleration capability to define the sublight drives.
  • Scoops, Purifiers and Hours to Purify. Select here whether the ship is to be able to refuel from wilderness sources, ie gas giants, oceans and ice-caps. Note that attaching scoops to a ship which isn't streamlined is a waste of money!
    The size of the purification plant increases as the Hours to Purify (the whole tank) decreases, so setting this to 36 or 72 hours will save space while increasing the time spent hanging around the outer system.
  • Low Maintenance Maneuver and Low Maintenance Jump. A house rule. LM drives cost more and are bigger, but reduce the calculated number of Engineering crew; this effect may not actually be visible on smaller ships.
    Low Maintenance drives add 50% weight and volume, and 20% cost. They reduce Engineering crew requirements by 20%
  • High Perfomance Maneuver. Basically a "souped up" M-Drive, adds .5g to the ship's sublight speed. Costs more, weighs more and requires more engineers!
    High performance MD adds 20% weight, volume and cost.
  • Jump Overdrive. This allows the ship to extend its' Jump envelope to other attached objects, usually other vessels, and effectively "tow" them through Jumpspace. Uses for this include tugs and commerce raiders; with a little squeezing, a 100-ton scout/courier can be fitted with a Jump drive big enough to allow it to latch on to and steal a 200-ton vessel, such as a Beowulf class trader.
    Note that if the overdrive is big enough it will produce a better Jump than the listed rating if the ship is not carrying the stated extra weight. This will be listed in the profile. It cannot exceed Jump-6 under any conditions, of course!
  • Maneuver Overdrive. Extra sublight drive capacity to allow the vessel to haul externally attached dead weight at sublight speeds. Useful for ship tugs and salvage craft.
    Note that if the overdrive is big enough it will produce a better acceleration than the listed rating if the ship is not carrying the stated extra weight. This will be listed in the profile.
  • Check button. This allows you to do a recalculate of the design from here, so you can check the results shown on the header without having to come out of the Drives screen.


Ships III for Windows
  • Sensors. This leads to the sensor systems selection screen. This allows you to choose the various types of sensor suites, with different models available by their range capability. Note that the variations in size, cost and weight due to TL are all calculated automaticaly; if TL is changed, this is all taken care of and there is no need to reselect the items.
    The Defaults button will automatically install the best availabe item of each type (that's available to your TL); as with manual addition, you will be asked how many to install.
    Double-clicking an item in the right-hand list will give you the option of changing how many are installed, or removing the item altogether.
    A small box at the bottom will display the scan difficulties as calculated from the sensors as installed.
  • Avionics. These are the clever electronic devices that allow a craft to fly along at tree-top-height without hitting things. As the TL goes up, so does the safe speed.
    Note that fitting avionics to a ship that's not streamlined is a waste of money.
  • Communications. This takes you to the Communications screen, where you can add and remove communications devices, choosing from different models listed by their range capability.
    Double-clicking an item in the right-hand list will give you the option of changing how many are installed, or removing the item altogether.
  • EM-Mask. This is a design feature applied to the whole ship, which masks and reduces the amount of ElectroMagnetic radiation it emits, and makes it less perceptible to other ships' sensors. The EMLevel profile entry is affected by this feature.

Weapons and Screens

Ships III for Windows
Here is where you add offensive and defensive equipment to your vessel. This is one place where the design almost always blows its' limits!
Calculation of weapon factors is done automatically at the TL you have selected for the overall design. If the TL is changed, these will be adjusted for you.
  • Turrets. On the Turrets screen, double-click items in the left-hand list to add them to the design. You'll be asked how many of that type you want, and how many batteries to organize them into.
    Double-clicking that entry will allow you to change either number, remove the item, or apply a MaxFactor calculation; you tell it what offensive factor you want, and it automatically allocates the weapon type to as many batteries as possible while retaining the desired factor. Note that if you alter the fundamental TL of the design, it's a good idea to redo this process as the answers will probably have changed during the recalculation .
    Adjustments to the number of hardpoints used are made as soon as turrets are added.
  • Bays. The Bays screen works in the same way as the Turrets screen. Each bay is automatically a battery, however, so no battery values are dealt with.
  • Screens. Working the same way as the previous two, the Screens screen allows various systems to be installed. Note that these are listed and available even if they are from a higher TL than the ship is designed at.
  • Spinal Mount. Choose a Spinal weapon for captial ships here.
  • Missile magazine. Enter how many of each type of missile you want the ship to carry. A "battery round" is the number of missiles total the ship can launch in a combat round, if it fires all its' turrets and bays etc. If you subsequently add more turrets, the total missile numbers will be recalculated automatically.
  • Check button. Allows you to refresh the header values based on changes to the spinal and magazine settings.
  • Combat factors list The list at the bottom shows a summary of the factors and batteries for each type of weapon.

Control and Computers

Ships III for Windows
These are the control systems which largely run the ship.
  • Main Computer. Select the ship's main computer system here. Note that under the MegaTraveller rules, this actually means a suite of three computers of this rating.
    The LHep(Or) systems are taken from Paranoia Press' publication Merchants and Merchandise and are only available for ships built in the Beyond or Vanguard Reaches sectors. Some of the more advanced features described therein are at the GM's discretion!
    The TL 21 Model 15/fibx is an Ancients' design, and was inserted into the data tables for a specific ship design. Use with care!
  • Backup Computer. If the ship is likely to see combat, a backup computer system is a good idea, preferably with a /fib (fibre optic) infrastructure. Alternatively, science vessels often install one for the research personnel, to keep them away from the main flight systems ("Who let all these lab monkeys out?").
  • Control panel type. This defines the human interface panels used for controlling all the ship's functions. The different values here affect the whole flavour of the ship; Mechanical controls are at the Flash Gordon level, physical levers with control wires moving things around, while Holographic controls are a projected switch panel and display screens, visually threedimensional while physically nonexistent; the user can design his entire control array and data display to suit himself.
    The more sophisticated the panel type, the fewer are needed to control the ship's systems. The lower tech types can gobble up alarming amounts of space and power!
  • Heads up Display and Holodisplay. These are added features to the standard control panel, usually fitted for bridge crew. They increase the efficiency of the panel and reduce the numbers required; see above.
  • Large Holodisplay. A "main screen" or "tank", usually fitted on the bridge and in other critical areas. This can either be a display screen a la Star Trek or a globular "tank" with a scaled 3d representation of the local star system in it.
    These increase the amount of data that can be displayed to the bridge crew, and therefore reduce the number of standard panels required.
  • Auxiliary bridge. This option allows a "battle bridge" to be set aside. A certain amount of volume, power, weight and cost per crew member of the primary bridge is expended.

Crew and Accommodation.

Ships III for Windows
The crew calculations are also a bit wild and woolly, and it's best to run through this screen once at this point, then come back and check again after everything else is finished, in case your now bigger power plant requires another engineer... Then of course you may need another stateroom, and so on..
  • The Crew panel. For each crew section, the required number as calculated by the MegaTraveller rules (more or less) is listed. Next to that is the number you've allocated; if there aren't enough, these numbers are in red.
    At the bottom is the Accept Defaults button, which will allocate as many crew as has been suggested to each section.
    However, this isn't perfect; usually, for example, on a merchant ship, a Gunner will also be trained to load cargo, fly the Air/Raft and probably be the Steward at different times. So you can override the numbers listed by clicking the button with the section name on and entering a number. When you do this, it'll ask if you want to "fix" the value. If you do, subsequent clicks on "Accept Defaults" won't override that value.
  • Accommodation Panel. Double-click the items you want to install from the list at the top. You'll be asked how many you want, and they'll appear in the lower list. Double-clicking the items in the lower list will offer the chance to change the number installed or to remove them.
  • Environment Panel. This is where the degree of life support can be tuned. Normally, these shouldn't be changed, though properly speaking, ships at TL 9 shouldn't have inertial compensators as these hadn't been invented by then.
    The number of airlocks is calculated from the size of the ship, but you can override this if, for example, you already have deck plans and know the "real" answer.

Subordinate Craft.

Ships III for Windows
I've included a good-sized library of standard craft, including all the Book 2 and 5 ones and everything from 101 Vehicles. If there's anything you're dying to have included, let me know, or hack the .mdb file and add it yourself (use Access 97!). Keep a backup if you do, though.
  • Subordinate Craft. Choose vehicles to taste from the list on the left. Double-clicking in the right-hand list allows you to change the number installed or remove the item.
  • Launch Tube. Click this button to designate one or more launch tubes, and how big a craft (usually a fighter or troop lander) can fit down them. Set the number to 0 to take them off again.


Ships III for Windows
There's a lot you can do with these sections for "funny" designs that don't meet the rules.
  • Anti-Hijack. A house rule, detailed in an article I may post on the web site one day. Basically, the ship's computer can be delegated the power to keep people out of places they shouldn't be, using both the ship's systems and some add-ons of its' own. The numbers required are based on ship size.
    The Defaults button will install a basic AH package, enough to track people in any light conditions, shut them in rooms if need be, and turn off (or up!) the gravity to disorientate them. Note the Default option does not install stun guns or weaponry. You have to do that from the lists.
  • Custom Features. Here you can add stuff you want that I've forgotten :). Click Add One, and you'll be asked for the name of the item, its' volume (you can use KL or dTons), mass in tons, power use (if any), cost in Cr, and how many there are of them.
    Double-clicking the item allows you to change the number installed, remove it, or edit the values.
    This screen can be used to tweak all sorts of things to take account of campaign McGuffins that bend the rules (like the PCs have a ship with a backup power plant; you can work out the size, mass, cost and power input of the first one and enter them, remembering to put the MW value in as a negative as it's decreasing what's used. Then be honest and add some more fuel too...)

Post-design Sequence Options

Ships produces four files with each design:
.s2d file The design data file. A meaningless and very long list of numbers, generally it's best to leave it alone.
.s2p file The profile file. An ASCII file with the MegaTraveller profile of the ship in plain text, formatted for printing. Don't use Notepad, though; either COPY > LPT1 from DOS or use a Posh Print instead.
.s2n file This is optional, if you don't click Edit Notes and put something in, it won't be there, but if you do it'll be included in the profile when you next do a save.
.htm file The ship profile again, but this time in web page format.

Load design

Ships III for Windows
Allows the opening and reloading of previously saved designs.

Last x edits

Ships III for Windows
This tracks the last ten design files you worked on, and offers a single-click load option for these files.

Save As

Ships III for Windows
Use this to save a design for the first time, or to rename an existing one. If you're renaming, remember that the notes file won't be copied; you'll have to do that manually.

Fast Resave

Ships III for Windows
Once you've saved once, you can click this button and it will:
Save the design
Write the ASCII profile file
Write the .HTM web-format profile file

Edit Notes

Ships III for Windows
Click this and you'll be offered a File Open dialog. Type in the name of your design file as entered in Save As, suffixing with .s2n instead of .s2d. Notepad will open and allow you to edit notes on the vessel. These will be included in the profile when you next save the design.

View Profile

Ships III for Windows
A File Open dialog will come up giving you the chance to select any .s2p profile file. This will be opened in Notepad allowing you to see what it currently looks like.

Posh Print

Ships III for Windows
While the ASCII profile is fine in its' way, it doesn't look very slick printed out (though it's quick, of course!). This button prints a formatted and arranged print to the currently selected Windows printer. Windows fonts being a bit smaller than standard "DOS" printer fonts, you tend to get a bit more on the page this way.

List features

Ships III for Windows
Brings up a list of the features installed in the design and their usage of resources. While a little hard to read, this can help you track down outrageous errors, and is quite useful for designing deck plans.


Ships III for Windows
Clears all the values in the design and starts again.

Bulk Save Options

Ships III for Windows
Allows the automatic loading-recalculating-resaving of all designs in a directory, optionally with the creation of a web index to navigate through the resulting HTML profile files.


Ships III for Windows
Go bye-bye, back to the real world and play Traveller, hopefully with nice whizzy ships to impress your players.


Database modificatons

Ships III for Windows
Some notes on customizing Ships. If you're feeling brave, you can add extra vehicles, acommodation items and so on to the database. A few notes:

Make a backup first! Copy the SHIPS.MDB somewhere safe. Ideally, do it again each time you make changes, so you don't have to go right back to the beginning if you mess it up.

Use Access 97 to open the database. Every version of Access is different. If you open the MDB with Access 2000, it may work afterwards, and then again it may not. If you haven't got Access, ask me, I have a utility for doing this.

Make sure the IDNUM fields are consecutive. If there's a gap, Ships will stop loading items into the lists there and the rest won't show.

For Small Craft,
Miscnum(1) is displacement in dtons
Miscnum(2) is the additional KL the craft requires if hangered internally (ie not in a Config 7 ship)
Miscnum(3) is number of Flight Crew required

If you're adding weapon items (turrets, bays, or spinals), make sure one of the following text strings exists somewhere within the LABEL field:
LASER for lasers, beam or pulse
MISS Missiles
SAND Sandcasters
PLASMA Plasma guns
FUSION Fusion guns
PARTICLE Particle accelerators
MESON Meson guns
REPULSOR Repulsors
TRACT Tractors
DAMP Jump Dampers
PROJ Jump Projectors
DISIN Disintegrators

Case is not sensitive, but at least the string listed (it can be more, so Missile will do whereas Mis won't) must be present. If this is correctly done, the value listed in the USP field will be tallied up properly as a weapon.

Hugh Foster