Review: Hellas–Argosian Light Hauler Deckplans

Posted: 15 March 2013 in Reviews

Kephera Publishing, makers of the Hellas RPG, have released deckplans for several of the ships in that game. So of course I had to have at least one.

During character creation, the lifepath may gift a PC with an Argosian Light Hauler, a Helios Space Jumper, or a Helios Runner. (Of course, he can win any ship in a game of chance, but am I going to let a PC start the game with a Spartan Destroyer? I think not.)

Only the Argosian Hauler has a deckplan available, so that was my initial choice. It’s a small, commonly-used space transport; the setting’s equivalent of the Star Wars Stock Light Freighter, or the Classic Traveller Type A Free Trader; cheap, ubiquitous, easy to maintain. Just the sort of thing my PCs would use. The ship is a typical Hellene design, in that it has a central pod holding the crew, passengers, cargo, drives and controls, slung between two larger booms, giving it the look of a spacefaring catamaran. This makes sense in the Hellas setting, where starships typically land on water and park in normal harbours rather than special-purpose starports.

Like the Hellas rulebook, the hauler deckplan is in landscape format and printer-slaughtering full colour throughout. The seven page document has a cover, a general view with basic ship stats, a second general view with generic NPC stats for likely crewmen, passengers and droids (errm, sorry, machina), a page with instructions and a diagram key, and one plan for each of the three decks; essentially, the top deck is the bridge, the middle deck is the crew and passenger quarters, and the bottom deck is for cargo. Decks are parallel to the axis of thrust, as befits a space opera craft.

The PDF file lets you use layers to select whether you see the full ship or just the habitable parts of that deck, with or without a one-metre hexgrid, with or without a key. Note that you just get the deckplans, no 28mm scale battlemats or ship tiles; however, if you have a recent version of Acrobat you can use the poster printing option to blow it up and split it into tiles, although you need to print at 300% to get the one-inch hexes I prefer, meaning the whole deckplan would be three decks each 6 x 5 feet. It would be nice to have the option of printing out just the central pod, without the booms, as it’s the pod I would expect to use most, although in Hellas you can breathe in hyperspace, so you could easily be harpooning kraken standing on one of the booms, six days out of Korinthos.

The ship layout is nice enough, nothing earth-shattering but it does the job, and there’s good use of colour to make things easy to see on the tabletop; I’ll be happy to use it at some point. It would work in any space opera setting, although you might want to repurpose the numerous shrines as cryogenic sleep pods.

On paper, the Light Hauler has a crew of two and 8 passengers at maximum capacity. The deckplan has only 8 beds, so someone is hot-bunking, and only one toilet, which had better not break down two weeks from port.

As well as the shrines, other things not usually found on starship deck plans are the "livestock and food storage area", and the "wench control room" (probably a typo, but made me do a double-take and then start plotting a scenario the PCs are not going to like at all).

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5. Cheap, nice enough layout, does the job; although it will be a bit tricky to print as a battlemat due to the need for tiling. I wonder if I can print specific tiles from a tiled page in Acrobat? Anyone know?

  1. raikenclw says:

    ” . . . in Hellas you can breathe in hyperspace . . .” You know, I’ve been thinking about this bit. Remember my imploding slipdrive comment? Perhaps that’s where Hellene hyperspace gets a breathable atmosphere: everybody who ever tried (and failed) to invent a slipdrive supplied the originally-empty hyperspace with this atmosphere, along with those floating world fragments. Of course, that would mean that slipdrives have been in use for a *very* long time. Which – if you think about it – isn’t really a bad thing: perhaps the Hellene “gods” were simply the first sapients to make practical use of the effect.

    Also, have you ever read any of David Drake’s “Lieutenant Leary” books? While his hyperspace doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere, it does have “currents” and “winds” which ships use to travel between worlds. And he manages to also use these to justify why ships have large human crews: his hyperspace is so sensitive to electromagnetic fields that ships can’t use automatic equipment to raise/lower/trim their hyperspace masts/sails while travelling, but must do such with either (frequently jamming) hydraulics or manual brute force. The catamaran design is also a feature of his ships; while they *can* land on terra firma if necessary, water landings are preferred, because the refractory backblast from the landing thrusters is much more controllable (in the final few seconds prior to actual touchdown).

    • raikenclw says:

      Replying to my own reply: You know, if slipdrive ships (slipships? or – dare I say it – slipper ships?) can enter hyperspace while still in an atmosphere, then perhaps (over time) they’ve sucked its breathable atmosphere in along with them.

    • andyslack says:

      Hmm. One could interpret the gods of Hellas as the remaining people/AIs/whatever from an earlier culture – that would be very Greek, the idea of civilisation going in cycles. Once you take that step, who knows how many previous cycles there were?

      I’ve read the first four of the RCN series, and intend to read the rest someday – good stuff, and the characters are a bunch of PCs if ever I saw one. The weapon systems made me raise an eyebrow in places, but I managed to drive on.

      David Drake is also one of the authors who explicitly uses history and myth as the framework for his stories; Cross the Stars, for example, is the Odyssey retold. So worth exploring from that perspective alone.

      • raikenclw says:

        “The weapon systems made me raise an eyebrow in places, but I managed to drive on.”

        I’m not much of a scientist, so I can’t really comment as to their plausibility or lack thereof. But after an initial adjustment period – these are very much NOT Traveller weapon systems – I actually warmed to the very prosaic missiles/cannon of the RCN series. Not only are they limited in range/power/effect, but they are vulnerable to source of damage which other writers ignore. I can’t think of any other series where a ship commander must worry about missile loading tracks jamming from structural twisting or the warheads of “found” missiles actually being duds due to improper maintenance. Obviously, Drake deliberately chose to do emphasize such limitations, in order to reinforce the “Age of Sail” feeling of these books.

        Taken all together, it is very much not the usual way such systems are envisioned. Yet somehow, it works. When Leary worries about whether or not his guns will actually fire as he takes a ship into action, it feels “real” – that is, like a game where “suspension of disbelief” would be easy to maintain. And Chief Gunner Sun – *always* itching to blow things up with the biggest cannon/missile available – is soooooo obviously a PC! 🙂

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