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Author Topic: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip  (Read 5581 times)

Giovanni Blasini

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And we're back, folks, with a new JumpShip of the Month.  This time around, we're talking about one of the classics, the Merchant class JumpShip.  First built in 2503, the Merchant class was designed to support, not surprisingly, merchant shipping.  So, how well does it do in that role?

First, let's look at what it can do:  carry two DropShips through hyperspace, along with a pair of small craft.  Weapons?  Nope.  Passengers?  Nope.  Cargo?  Well, 657 tons these days.  Really, this is, at first glance, a no-frills ship, especially considering the Liberty, a JumpShip class only 34 years older than the Merchant class, carried twice the number of JumpShips, plus 22 passengers.

So, why is the Liberty gone, but the Merchant still around?

Well, as we saw last time, the Liberty has its own issues.  It's difficult to maintain.  The crew quarters suck, and the passenger space does, too.  It was bad enough, in fact, that it went out of production by 2570.

To contrast that, the Merchant crew uses what's considered standard-size quarters: 10 tons for the officers, 7 tons for the enlisted.  These days, the Merchant class carries a crew of 21, with 4 officers and 17 enlisted but, back when it debuted, it carried a crew of 40, reducing that 657 tons of cargo down to 518 tons, which still isn't bad.  These days, though, with the reduced crew, there's absolutely tons of room onboard for the crew.

Tech Readout 3057 and its Revised version don't tell us much about amenities, but DropShips and JumpShips does.  For starters, there's the grav deck.  Forty meters in diameter, and 5 meters wide, it's often used for crew quarters and, thanks to the smaller crews on modern Merchants, there's space for each crewmember to have their own private room.  DS&JS also goes into detail describing the bridge, a dome-shaped section ringed by windows, with the captain sitting in the center, ringed by six duty stations.  Modern Merchant class JumpShips have been rewired, allowing the bridge to be crewed by only two people: a pilot and navigator.  That's got to be handy for keeping operating costs down.

One thing DS&JS makes clear, too, is that Merchant class JumpShips, since they're primarily owned by civilians, not governments or militaries, are often customized internally to suit the needs of their owners.  In fact, many Merchants carry a supplemental module, ranging from 20 to 100 tons, that takes up part of one of the cargo holds, expanding out recreational facilities, passenger space, life support or supplemental emergency power supply.

So, the Merchant definitely had some positives going for it, when compared to the Liberty.  Its crew is smaller, it's easier to maintain, and it's a hell of a lot better to spend time aboard than the Liberty was.  But, it still only carries a pair of DropShips, two small craft, and 500-650 tons of cargo or so.  So, while I'd probably give it an A for cargo (especially for her size), I'd probably only give it a B- to a C for DropShip capacity in general...but an A- based on her size, as you could, rounding up, fit only 3 DropShip collars on a ship this size.  Of course, if you did, you'd pretty much compromise every other area of the ship.

Then there's the fuel capacity.  Oh god, there's the fuel capacity.  The good news is, at 120 kilotons, you only use 19.75 tons/burn-day/G, which means you're just under 2 tons/day for stationkeeping.  That's the good news.  The bad news?  You have 85 tons of fuel standard.  Yeah, that just plain sucks compared to the Liberty, but it's enough for emergency maneuvers, given you could do a fully-powered 0.1 G burn from Sol's jump point (or Saturn) to Earth, a 28-day trip, with fuel to spare, and you're hardly the worse-off JumpShip.  You'll probably want to consider carrying some extra fuel in your cargo hold, though.  Even better, carry a couple of spare sails: they mass less than the roughly 200 tons you'd need to do a fusion-powered jump.  The Merchant, then, earns a C+ for fuel capacity, just because, in an emergency, it can get you to wherever you're going to be stranded.

When they first emerged, the Clippership V (the civvie version of the Czar), with its roughly 4000 tons of cargo, was one of the most common cargo DropShips, along with the bigger Jumbo class, which carried over 10,000 tons of cargo.  The DroST I/II, later a cargo bird, was still a military dropper at this point, and the only other known cargo DropShip of the era was the Manatee, filling in at the smaller end of the spectrum with only 1000 tons or so of cargo. 

Of course, modern Merchant class JumpShips could find themselves carrying damn near anything, and the general loss of JumpShips during the Succession Wars means that Merchant class skippers could easily find themselves pressed into military service.  DS&JS indicated that the Lyrans had the majority of the Merchant class ships still in service during the Third Succession War (heh), with Ioto Galactic Enterprises manufacturing their ships.  Rashpur-Owens Inc., meanwhile, manufactured the ship for the Capellans, and Stellar Trek built Merchant classes for the Draconis Combine.  By the Jihad, meanwhile, the ship was far more common, making pretty much every availability list, including Clan.

What, then, do you get for the 120,000 tons the Merchant class gets you?  Decent cargo and DropShip capacity for her size, somewhat lackluster fuel endurance, and a ship that, in theory, is cheap to operate and will keep her crew happy.  This is a JumpShip that you'll never have on your board as anything other than a target in your tabletop games - you'll note I didn't cover its combat capabilities at all, 'cause it doesn't have any.  However, a Merchant class JumpShip could easily make a great starting point and base of operations for an RPG campaign, whether you're playing a small Succession Wars merc or House unit, or a bunch of merchies.

MUL link for the standard Merchant class
MUL link for the Clan Merchant class
« Last Edit: 26 April 2014, 00:53:59 by Giovanni Blasini »
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nerd

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #1 on: 26 April 2014, 22:38:06 »
It is the defacto standard JumpShip in the BTU. The Grey Death Legion's Invindious was an old Merchant, and I'd say if you're looking to have a JumpShip show up, have it as either a Merchant or Tramp
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glitterboy2098

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #2 on: 26 April 2014, 22:43:34 »
Quote
especially considering the Liberty, a JumpShip class only 34 years older than the Merchant class, carried twice the number of JumpShips, plus 22 passengers.
i suspect you mean dropships..

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #3 on: 27 April 2014, 00:01:46 »
Yep, I meant DropShips.

As  for  the defacto JumpShip, that's actually the Invader, which is far more numerous than the Merchant.

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UnLimiTeD

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #4 on: 27 April 2014, 04:46:20 »
The Merchant is another one of those fluff units that I like far more than reasonable for the fact they give the universe character and for once don't rely on stats for that.
Yeah, they have some, but it wouldn't matter much in a regluar game.
Is it possible your articles always link to an older one? :P
I clicked on this, then got back to the Liberty, then to the Aquila.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #5 on: 27 April 2014, 14:33:05 »
Those three are the only ones up on the current board, and I don't think my older ones ever got archived, so in the end I'm just redoing articles for all the JumpShips in chronological order.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #6 on: 28 April 2014, 02:53:59 »
Something that occurred to me: while in real life the Tracker was undoubtedly based on the Merchant, in-universe, it's almost undoubtedly the other way around, with the two ships having almost identical signatures, and lengths within a couple meters of one another.  That could have afforded Merchants extra protection, as potential attackers couldn't be sure they weren't about to attack a Terran Hegemony WarShip.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #7 on: 28 April 2014, 07:48:33 »
Kinda like how the Schatten had a genuine cargo-lifter twin enter service at exactly the same time?
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bluedragon7

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #8 on: 28 April 2014, 08:09:40 »
Something that occurred to me: while in real life the Tracker was undoubtedly based on the Merchant, in-universe, it's almost undoubtedly the other way around, with the two ships having almost identical signatures, and lengths within a couple meters of one another.  That could have afforded Merchants extra protection, as potential attackers couldn't be sure they weren't about to attack a Terran Hegemony WarShip.
I understood the TRO entry of the tracker that it was secret so i would say even in universe it had been Tracker based on Merchant not the other way arround.

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #9 on: 28 April 2014, 08:42:41 »
The Tracker debuted in 2407, a full 96 years before the Merchant.  In-universe, it could not possibly have been based on the Merchant.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #10 on: 28 April 2014, 09:44:00 »
My headcanon is that when the Merchant was designed, Hegemony Intelligence snuck some of their own engineers onto the design team, specifically so the resulting ship would end up something the Tracker could mimic. 8)
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Frabby

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #11 on: 28 April 2014, 10:04:15 »
Hm. In fact, the Tracker debuted before even the Liberty class of JumpShips established the standard design which the Merchant also adheres to.

One aspect I missed from the initial writeup is that the Merchant class is notorious for lacking spare parts for their power converters, which reduces recharge time on an average vessel by 10-20% (this statement raises a couple of interpretation questions, but I take it to mean most Merchants in 3025 had converters in need of a replacement which caused longer recharge cycles). For a commercial JumpShip, this is rather bad.
Since the issue isn't mentioned around 3057 it would seem spare parts production finally caught up with demand though.
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bluedragon7

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #12 on: 28 April 2014, 10:07:35 »
The Tracker debuted in 2407, a full 96 years before the Merchant.  In-universe, it could not possibly have been based on the Merchant.
I would then say one of those dates should be changed to make sense (or there was a predecessor to the merchant in the same weight class, but i think changing the date on the tracker entry would be the easiest)
Considering it even takes the Hegemony a bit time to finalize a Warship, 2407 could also be a typo of 2507 ;)

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #13 on: 28 April 2014, 11:28:08 »
Or maybe all the Trackers were Refit after the introduction of the Merchant to give them a new appearance.  That doesn't explain the length similarity, but maybe the Merchant was designed to be built in slips previously used to construct an unknown class of primitive jumpship, and that was the ship the Tracker originally mimiced.
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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #14 on: 28 April 2014, 12:58:38 »
The Tracker debuted in 2407, a full 96 years before the Merchant.  In-universe, it could not possibly have been based on the Merchant.
Hm. In fact, the Tracker debuted before even the Liberty class of JumpShips established the standard design which the Merchant also adheres to.

even more problematic, the Tracker has two dropship collars..  technology that wasn't in use till the Liberty class. so it is built long before the ships it is supposed to mimic, and uses technology that wasn't in widespread use till those ships are made decades later.

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #15 on: 28 April 2014, 16:23:58 »
One aspect I missed from the initial writeup is that the Merchant class is notorious for lacking spare parts for their power converters, which reduces recharge time on an average vessel by 10-20% (this statement raises a couple of interpretation questions, but I take it to mean most Merchants in 3025 had converters in need of a replacement which caused longer recharge cycles). For a commercial JumpShip, this is rather bad.

That's because some kid on a desert planet didn't pick them up from Toshi station.

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #16 on: 28 April 2014, 20:52:54 »
That's because some kid on a desert planet didn't pick them up from Toshi station.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #17 on: 28 April 2014, 22:22:46 »
Aaaaand this is why I'll be posting the next WSotW, the Tracker, when I get home tonight.
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Giovanni Blasini

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Re: JumpShip of the Month (April 2014): Merchant Class JumpShip
« Reply #18 on: 29 April 2014, 01:02:45 »
Aaaaand this is why I'll be posting the next WSotW, the Tracker, when I get home tonight.

And it's up:

http://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,39016.0.html
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