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Author Topic: High Port / Trade Station Discussion  (Read 426 times)

rogueranger1993

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High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« on: 12 February 2019, 19:21:46 »
Now that I'm finally running a BattleTech RPG game after nearly four years of having literally NO ONE to play ANY games with, I'm finding myself wanting to explore some aspects of the BTU more deeply than I have before, and it's really quite a thrilling experience for me - especially since I've already learned quite a lot from my question about DropShip life.  :)

In any case, this is the first of three threads I'm starting, to discuss satellites, recharging stations, and high ports/trade stations. This post will focus on discussing trade stations/high ports.

Now, first let's clarify what I'm talking about. When I talk about a trade station, I'm thinking of a space station that is placed at the zenith/nadir jump point, or in orbit of a planet. The purpose of a trade station is to act as a spaceport (in SPAAACE!  ;D), where DropShips can go to deliver cargo and passengers, and to refuel/resupply, without needing to land on the planet itself. This is particularly useful for DropShips which are too large to land on the planet, such as the Behemoth. The trade station does not necessarily include batteries for recharging JumpShips, though ti might have them if it is located at the jump points. It won't necessarily have repair facilities either, though it is possible.

Now first, I will say that these kinds of facilities don't seem to appear much in canon, so I'd also like to hear some discussion about them in a theoretical/Fan-canon sense, since I'm considering using them in my own RPG campaign at some point. That said, let's discuss just how common these things might be (or how common you think they should be), and where they might be likely to appear. I can see trade station being used on busy trade lanes to help take pressure off of ground-side facilities, and to accommodate large DropShips that can't land on a planet's surface. That way, such large ships can dock with the station and offload their cargo directly in a much more efficient and timely manner, which would allow them to load a new cargo and get back to travelling more quickly, thereby affording the operator a bigger profit margin. The station would then handle the transfer of cargo to the planet's surface or other ships. Other than that, I'm relatively clueless on where they would best be located in a system, or the kind of systems that would be best served by a trade station, so comments and thoughts on the positioning of such an asset would be most appreciated.

The second thing I'd like to talk about is how such a station might operate. For example, I can see trade stations having a large number of quarters, and rather than being intended for permanent residents, they would really be intended for use by people who were stopping over temporarily on a longer trip. I can also see trade stations having a large complement of marines working as security forces - keeping crime in check, checking trade manifests, inspecting cargo for contraband, arresting criminals and other troublemakers, protecting against pirate boarders, etc. A large number of docking collars would be a must so that DropShips could dock with the station - I can see stations having a number of docking pilots on hand, and the stipulation that all DropShips must have one of the station's docking pilots aboard to perform all docking and undocking procedures for safety reasons. A large number of small craft bays would seem to be required, housing a swarm of cargo and passenger carriers for a variety of duties, and a few of them could be set aside to hold a few AeroSpace Fighters for defense in troubled regions - I'm sure the technical crews would appreciate the extra elbow room, too. Massive cargo bays are almost a must, so that the station can store the cargo being transferred through its facilities.

Weapons would likely be light, meant only for discouraging attack by pirate bands rather than for any kind of real defense against a determined invasion force or something of the sort. Recharge batteries would be useful if the station was located at a jump point, but would otherwise be excluded to save weight for other features that would be more useful. Repair facilities may or may not be included, but would generally be intended only for DropShips, and most stations would only be able to fit the most common vessels, so I'm thinking the majority of trade stations would have repair bays of 15-30,000 ton capacity at most. JumpShip sized repair bays would be right out unless the station was located at a jump point.

I can see most trade stations using a horde of small craft to transfer the majority of cargo and passenger traffic moving between the station and the local planet(s), but I can also see a role for one or two permanently-assigned DropShips working to transfer larger loads between these locations - I'm thinking something like a Buccaneer, Mule, or possibly even a DrosT IIA (which is widely available even in the later eras according to it's fluff). If the station was at the jump point, I can see a lot more emphasis on regular trips by one or two DropShips to move traffic between the station and the planet(s) in system.

That's all I've got for now; comments and opinions, anyone?

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Easy

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #1 on: 12 February 2019, 19:49:46 »
For sheer numbers, you probably won't find a more fertile Era than Star League up to 1SW. During 1SW, over 3/4 of the total number of warships, and let's include their compliments with that, went up in smoke. Surely, if there were Death Stars, the 1SW would have included Death Stars, or any other major spacecraft with a significant strategic or tactical value or key role in a conflict so far described.

So, probably no Death Stars after the Exodus. What major SDS systems the Hegemony produced are in HLoT1 and 2. Some impressive stuff there, with little detail about what other kinds of industrial strength terraforming tools could also have military application.

The Taurian Concordat sported quite a few asteroid bases that could service entire wings and supported a high-production industry out on the rocks, so we can imagine Last Starfighter type bases.

I envision lots of Babylon 5 style 'travel hubs', particularly at cross-roads systems on major lanes, with smaller 'gas station, motel and mini-market' type stuff as you get further out into the backwoods.

I've used examples of movies here, but this discussion could benefit from a list of canon stations to use as a foundation to imagine an industrial-military complex of space faring assets worthy of the great houses and the hegemony.

Then, of course, the 1SW starts and we burn it all down. :)

R.Tempest

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #2 on: 13 February 2019, 01:29:25 »
 IIRC there's a chapter in one of the novels, Bred for War perhaps, where the assassain who killed Melissa Steiner is on the run where he ends up on a station switching identities from a religious fanatic to a ship crewman. There's a union hiring hall where he checks in (with forged credentials) to get a job on a ship for a short term.
 This implies a network of short term crewman available at major system facilities. Also that commercial ships are willing to hire short term crew.

Paul

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #3 on: 13 February 2019, 02:08:41 »
Well, 2 data points to consider.

- Due to K-F recharge times, the odds are likely that any given ship has to wait days to jump again. Even if it's willing/able to dock with another JumpShip that's already been charging for a while, assuming such is available and has open slots. On average, you might knock days off, but a command-circuit style effect where you dock-redock after every jump likely never happens.
- Certainly after the Succession Wars, JumpShip demand has to outstrip supply.

As such, I see space stations at the 2 major jump points as pretty much a given. Crews and passengers need R&R while they wait. They need food and entertainment. They have money, and almost literally a captive audience.
Now, sure, most of those aren't going to be full recharge stations. They don't have to be.

Now if you have those anyway, I can definitely see systems where a DropShip jumps in, loads and unloads at the nearby space station, then leaves. This has to be VERY desirable to the DropShip, who doesn't have to head down to the planet, then back up again. The fuel and time it saves, even if you have to wait the full 7 days for a recharge, has to be huge. Then the in-system transfers happen with trawlers and small craft that move things back and forth, or even not at all. Might as well leave those Capellan furs at the station until a Marik merchant comes by to buy them all.

This does require the system to be in a busy part of space, likely above a wealthy planet, because something has to drive sufficiently diverse traffic to make that work. And there only place where such stations make sense is at the jump points. Likely just 1 to reduce competion.

Life on the station then would be as interesting as you make it. If the population is small, well, so are the problems. And the possibilities for crime and smuggling reduce as well. Their entertainment/recreational facilities would be substantial (flow of traffic), and guest quarters make sense.

But all the way Babylon 5? Pretty much impossible. Even DS9 is unlikely.


Frabby

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #4 on: 13 February 2019, 03:46:21 »
Such stations exist in canon. Both orbital terminals and jump point stations are relatively common; for the latter, it's usually a dual function with Recharge Station. There's also shipyards, mining stations and habitats. Every major space station will double as a trade station or at least logistics hub.

I say "relatively" because of the devastation of the Amaris Civil War, the Succession Wars and Lostech in general which rendered most of them damaged or outright destroyed.

In canon, there's the B5-style Bad News trade station as described in the Royalty & Rogues advenrure; or the writeup in BattleTechnology for Wheel, essentially a gigantic freeport station at the jump point with only marginal habitation on two of the system's planets. That's just two examples.
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AlphaMirage

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #5 on: 13 February 2019, 06:53:20 »
I described one of these in my Katherine AU.  Like mentioned above the New Avalon station and I imagine most Olympus sized stations are transhipment points.  Dropship pops in spends a day while it's cargo is changed out and returns to it's jumpship in time to make the recharge accelerated jump to it's next destination.  Its cargo/passengers are then loaded onto a larger planetary charter dropship (a Mammoth or similar) and taken to the surface. Simplifies space control and limits those pesky merchantmen carrying mercenaries that mean to attack my world.

You would find these places at the wealthiest capitals or most diverse industrial world's because they would be high level strategic assets
« Last Edit: 13 February 2019, 06:58:23 by AlphaMirage »

boilerman

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #6 on: 15 February 2019, 00:41:24 »
I think you pretty much nailed it RR; there will be transfer points for cargo and passengers. I think interstellar transport will function much like the central hub and secondary airport system in the US. Only the layovers are going to be much longer.

I believe the size of these trade stations will be proportional to that of the system population and its proximity to major space lanes. I think stations will cover the full range of sizes from 2,000 tons to mega tons. I also see more than one station at a jump point as possible, again depending on system population. Some may be government owned, others privately held. When you have more than one at a jump point I see them competing like truck stops in the real world.

I don't see them being everywhere but I think a lot systems might have one, the further from the border, the more likely they are.

I also see stations in planetary orbit, but not many. Cost of flight from ground to orbit is relatively cheap in BT, so not much need for accommodations in orbit unless you work there. And BT hasn't made a strong case for large populations of non-terrestrial humans, at least not since the succession wars began.

I have one rant about BT space stations - crew size! Space station crew size is ridiculously high in BT. I think they should be crewed like DropShips, not warships.

One more thing, I think customs enforcement and immigration control will be part of a trade station's function: 1 or 2 lawmen with access to a small shuttle of some sort to go out and inspect a ship.
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skiltao

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #7 on: 23 February 2019, 01:38:13 »
Have to agree with boilerman about orbital stations - Behemoths benefit little from them, and you're more likely to see a moonbase for a security/inspections force if they have to be offworld but still nearby.

Zenith/Nadir waystations would get the most use where trade routes cross; like, a ship on route A can schedule a dropoff for a ship on route B to pickup without either ship switching routes themselves or having to detour to the planet.

You kind of expect Zenith/Nadir stations to act as the accumulation/distribution point in a major agricultural or industrial system, with a local dropship making the in-system runs so visiting dropships don't have to, but I'm not sure that actually saves effort in the long run.

Such stations exist in canon. Both orbital terminals and jump point stations are relatively common

Can you give a few examples of orbital terminals (ones which aren't part of a larger orbital complex)? I'm drawing a blank. :-\
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Frabby

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #8 on: 23 February 2019, 02:22:12 »
Outreach springs to mind, with its orbital stations.
Before it was dragooned (tush!  ::) ) it was an established transit system for traffic into and out of the CapCon. That seems to indicate the stations were there even pre-4th SW.
(Yes, jump point stations would have made more sense. But I still have the impression that the orbital stations are what made the CC use it as a customs station system.)
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skiltao

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #9 on: 23 February 2019, 14:00:16 »
it was an established transit system for traffic into and out of the CapCon.

I've not heard that before. Source?

Chaos March mentions a Cyclops I Orbital Station as part of the Dragoons' state of the art defenses, and the presence of the phrase "state of the art" makes me doubt it was inherited from the Capellans (especially considering Outreach's dismal fortunes once the Star League fell).

The description in FM:Mercs has three stations, including a Cyclops recharge station at the zenith point and an Olympus station in planetary orbit. (The section misuses the word "orbit" a couple times, and there's a few other grammatical oddities, so I'm not sure the number and position of stations is being reported correctly.) The Cyclops station is now described as possessing "a full array of armaments, as well as state-of-the-art JumpShip recharging system and full dry-dock facilities for DropShips and JumpShips." The level of traffic control is clearly unusual - "one of the best defenses of any system in the Inner Sphere" - and includes forcing any significant quantity of military goods (including 'Mechs and company-sized infantry formations) to be transferred to Dragoon DropShips for transit in-system.
« Last Edit: 23 February 2019, 14:02:14 by skiltao »
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rogueranger1993

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #10 on: 23 February 2019, 23:11:42 »
Nice to see such excellent replies. :thumbsup: I have a headcanon that puts the IS a bit more technologically advanced then the standard 'mad max-esque' universe we sometimes get told about. As such, I can easily agree with Paul that trade stations, especially ones that don't have recharge systems, would be very common in the Inner Sphere.

I can see now that having the station located at the jump point is probably most beneficial. Having a station in planetary orbit can be good for placing an aerospace defense force in space, and as a base to allow customs duties to be performed before a ship makes landfall, but the transit times make such a location less desirable and a station at the jump point can do all of that too, and at a much more advantageous location. A station at the jump point also has easy access to a whole host of spacers from both JumpShips and DropShips, and provides a place where spacers can let off a bit of steam without needing to travel all the way to a planet - this is especially important for JumpShip crews, who spend most of their lives in deep space, and rarely get a chance to set foot on a planet.

Placing the station at a jump point also reduces turnaround times for merchant ships immensely, since a DropShip can simply detach from it's jumper and dock with the station for a day to unload it's cargo, then reattach to the jumper once it's loaded up a new cargo and is ready to go. Crewmen could go on leave for the day, and those who can get a slightly longer 'shore leave' can be ferried back to the ship using a small craft when it's finally time to jump away to another system. The trade port also makes an excellent temporary warehouse/trading venue, with merchant captains offloading goods that another ship can pick up at the station and take elsewhere. Regular service from one or more dedicated DropShips will be responsible for ferrying in-system passengers and freight between the station and the surface of the local planet(s).

The stations can also act as news dispensaries, with ships dropping off the latest news they've come across with the station, and any ship requesting updates can get copies, which would be an immense help to the task of keeping spacers relatively up-to-date with current events in the Inner Sphere at large. It can also serve as a readily available hiring hall for crewmen when the need arises, allowing spacecraft to find willing hires much more easily than it would be if they had to recruit on a planetary surface (again, this is especially crucial for JumpShips).

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cray

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #11 on: 24 February 2019, 09:18:44 »
The Olympus Recharge Station also functions as an entrepot and trade station.

Gulf Breeze (as described in a Touring the Stars product) has huge numbers of space stations at its jump points. The planet's high gravity keeps many people, even natives, away from the planet so most trade happens at jump points. It's abnormal for that reason but might be useful for examples of non-recharge stations at jump points. Even the planet's capital is on a space station and there are stats for a new station, the Wheeler Class, in the product.
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skiltao

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #12 on: 24 February 2019, 14:37:40 »
Yeah, with higher tech and bigger fleets, I'd definitely want a bunch of abnormal setups. I mean, what's the point of doing sci-fi if you don't?

I did find an orbital terminal, by the way. The "An Ting Orbital Station" in Wolves on the Border receives arms shipments from Ceres Metals to be shipped back out to Dragoon units in other systems. The station - or at least the part DropShips dock to(!?) - is wheel-shaped and rotates to produce artificial gravity. Docking bays are numbered at least as high as twenty-seven, though the nature of those bays (internal? external?) and the actual capacity of the station (do bay numbers get skipped, do some bays handle only small craft, do bigger ships overlap multiple bays) is unclear. Kuritan Space Command may be headquartered there, since Colonel Wolf's DropShip stops there to let a Space Command officer debark, but it's less clear why some Dragoon officers would be waiting to meet him there instead of on the Hephaestus (which was his previous stop) or on the planet's surface (which is his next stop). The officers were there to discuss civil charges with Wolf, so maybe the orbital station also houses elements of the planet's bureaucracy? I could see government facilities being placed in orbit, especially for worlds without major permanent settlements, or whose populations are of questionable loyalty.

I don't think I've heard of a Gulf Breeze pdf yet. The station in there wouldn't, by chance, happen to be an attempt to rationalize the An Ting station, would it?
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cray

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Re: High Port / Trade Station Discussion
« Reply #13 on: 25 February 2019, 17:25:43 »
My bad, Gulf Breeze doesn't seem to be out yet. Weird, I was finished with it way before Stotzing.

Anyway, nope, Gulf Breeze's stations had nothing to do with An Ting. Gulf Breeze turns up in the Steiner Handbook and, I think, Sourcebook. It's noted for having a large space-based population because the planet's a high-G, uninhabitable stinker. That called for space stations optimized for population rather than recharging or factory operations.
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**"Well, the first class name [for pocket WarShips]: 'Ship with delusions of grandeur that is going to evaporate 3.1 seconds after coming into NPPC range' tended to cause morale problems...." --Korzon77
**"Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading." --Thomas Jefferson, or not

Disclaimer: Anything stated in this post is unofficial and non-canon unless directly quoted from a published book. Random internet musings of a BattleTech writer are not canon.

 

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