Red Thunder

Medium Science Cruiser

Tonnage: 120 tons

Hit Points: Armor Class: 5 (Improved Military)
Weapons: One laser battery of four cannons (must engage on same target), one laser cannon, eight probe droids. Crew: 19 nominal (two lander crews of three included), 40 maximum
Speed: 4

Special: Having twin fusion engines and a streamlined and somewhat winged hull, the Red Thunder handles even better in an atmosphere than in space. Although it is optimized for a Mars environment, the Red Thunder's speed will nevertheless always be one place better than usual - allowing the Red Thunder a Speed of 5 in a Marsian density atmosphere.

Fitting its mission profile as a self-sufficient exploration vessel, the Red Thunder also has an unusually large fuel capacity, having converted some cargo space to hold more fuel.

The Red Thunder features one laser battery and one single laser cannon. The laser battery contains four "beam" laser cannons, capable of inflicting up to 40 points of damage provided the gunner hits with the entire beam. For every +1 the gunner beats the difficulty of the to-hit roll, another cannon will hit (up to four, obviously) doing another 10 points of damage. On a natural roll of 20, all cannon will have hit, inflicting 40 points of damage.

The single cannon is a pumped laser cannon of the "overload" variety. Note the increased damage. On a to-hit roll of "1", however, it will enter emergency shut-down because of heat buildup. If the cannon fails the saving throw, it will shatter, rendering the cannon useless until replaced, and inflicting 2d6 points of damage to a random hit location on the ship. Succeeding the saving throw, the laser cannon will be on-line 1d4 rounds later, having shed the excess heat.

The Red Thunder can also carry up to two parasitic landers - small ships at about 15 tons each that have reentry and lift-off capability, although their fuel reserves are very small. The landers are meant to function either as forward observation bases, or as temporary bases to either conduct research or surveys of a planetary environment.

Carrying one lander will reduce the cargo capacity of the Red Thunder with 5 tons, carrying two will reduce the cargo capacity of the Red thunder with 15 tons.

Further aiding the scientific profile of the Red Thunder, the Red Thunder also carries a brand new type of multi-functional probe drones. Essentially small, autonomous robotic sensor platforms, the probes are incredibly useful in a number of missions. Capable of conducting extended surveys, acting as a forward sensor (for instance enabling the Red Thunder to hide behind a planet or asteroid while still having over-the-horizon sensor capabilty), used to triangulate and/or enhance incoming signals, or boosting outgoing signals, the probe droids are also a weapons system. The communications array of the probe drones have both a laser tightbeam comm and a normal radio, providing both a broad band and effective comm system and one that is virtually untappable for sensitive data or situations.

Capable of overloading their nuclear reactor, they can also act as a powerful missile, surprising and possibly destroying unwary opponents. Though their nominal range is fairly unlimited, once detected as a weapons system in a combat environment, they have the range and to-hit bonus as designated above. Their speed is only 6, however, so at extreme range the gunner guiding the probe must either trust the on-board targeting computer to hit the target (at a THAC0 of 16), or must hit the target again on the round the probe drone arrives and self-destructs.

The Red Thunder also features an extensive internal security system, complete with weapon mounts spaced around the ship, and concentrated in open spaces. Though the weapon mounts are normally concealed, they are clearly marked with "Lethal Hazard" signs, and yellow-and-black warning tape around the sliding covers that conceal the weapon mount itself. Being an innovasion to internal security, this security feature has also allowed the Red Thunder to dispense with the "usual grunts" to repel boarders, as the digital personality that designed the system ("Rammstein.dop") put it.

The weapon mounts contain multiple weapons systems. Not only does it contain a weapons pod similar to the sonic stunner, it also includes a microwave gun (for cooking unarmored targets), a grenade launcher containing (supposedly) gas and dazzle grenades, a laser system about as powerful as a laser rifle and a rocket firing system about as effective as a rocket rifle, it also includes a powerful sensor array to distinguish friend and foe. Consider it to have the abilities of a watchbox (from The Technology Book) with the capability to recognize about 100 persons. The system has an AC of -2 when the panels are shut and an AC of 2 when open, and can sustain 30 points of damage before it ceases to function, attacking at a THAC0 of 17.

Further, the Red Thunder carries two so-called work pods, a newly developed alternative to space suits to do EVA (extra-vehicular) work. Featuring a spherical, mostly transparent pilot pod, a rocket thrust positioning system and two articulated arms with many specialized "hands", a work pod is enormous help when it comes to repairing ships in 0-G. Piloting the pod is either a Pilot Rocket or Use Rocket Belt skill check (at the GM's option), and using a work pod will double the amount of EVA work an engineer can do in a given time period. The work pods do carry welding lasers (treat as laser pistols with 100 shots and ROF of 1, THAC0 penalty -2) that can be used as weapons in a pinch, but due to the work pods' lack of a targeting system it is difficult to hit anything. Work pods are AC 4, and can sustain 20 points of damage before their self-sealing mechanisms cease to function, and the pod loses pressure integrity. A further 30 points of damage will destroy the pod.

The Landers: Being 15 ton vehicles, the Landers have the following stats: Tonnage 15, Length 10 feet, width 60 feet, cargo 5 tons, Hull 60, Sensors/Commo 15, Controls 15, Life Support 15, Fuel 30, Engine 45, AC 6 (military), weapons: none, crew 3, speed 1, reaction bonus +0, ac defense bonus +2. Note the reduced Fuel rating - a Lander typically has no more fuel than what is needed to safely land on an Earth-gravity planet and take off again. It may carry extra fuel, but must then usually either fill one vehicle bay with fuel drums (worth 15 points of refueling) or both bays (worth 30 points of refueling). Note that if it takes more than 30 fuel points to take off from a planet, the Lander will not make it into orbital space on its own.

Description: Being the first of a new class of medium science cruisers, the Red Thunder is a potent mix of speed, power and versatility. However, the Red Thunder class does suffer from two major drawbacks: 1) The Red Thunder doesn't carry troops. Although all crew on the Red Thunder are military officers or military science officers, the Red Thunder has nothing more than a Master-At-Arms to show for themselves in the shipboard troops compartment. The Red Thunder can carry troops for shorter periods of time, provided they bunk down in all available space on the Red Thunder (up to the life support maximum of 40 - provided they need to breathe, eat or drink), 20 or so troops just doesn't cut it when it comes to large-scale troop deployment. 2) The Red Thunder isn't terribly well armed. Although the probe drones does weigh up for this to some extent, they are very expensive missiles, and as they are extremely useful in other capacities, a ship captain (actually, a Commander, as RAM doesn't assign brand new ships to mere Captains) would tend to be careful to expend his supply of probe drones without good reason.

Otherwise, the Red Thunder incorporate one other radical feature: parasitic (i.e., vehicles mounted on the outside of a ship's hull) Landers help quickly establish a forward observation post or scientific base - a major asset in any number of missions. Although a purely military style Lander isn't designed yet (officially, at least), specific-mission Landers are likely to be developed if RAM decides to continue the Red Thunder class of ships.

Future developments: Provided that RAM decides to continue the Red Thunder class scientific cruiser, it is likely that a number of mission-specific Landers will be developed, along with modular trooper Landers. It is also likely that the Red Thunder class scientific cruisers will be upgunned, perhaps with highly efficient or otherwise exotic laser weapons developed by dr. Kandori. Further, it is likely that the very expensive security system will be somewhat downgraded if this class goes into mass production, to reduce cost.