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So minor gripe.  Really dislike how  Hero books handle sensors, specifically the whole VPP  thing.  I get it, easier and probably cheaper than listing all the sensors on a ship but seems like it's a "cheat".  


So wondering what sensors would you put on a ship, or a multipurpose hand held unit, or maybe a super hero suit of armor.  


Detect environment

Detect Energy

Detect life 

Detect Physical Object (aka RADAR)

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13 minutes ago, archer said:

Communications scanners which can listen to all the frequencies at once then zero in on the particular one which has broadcasts on it without the GM or another player trying to argue that radio powers don't work like that.

From experience?  We ALWAYS have handled this as a PER or INT roll (Edited to add: or System Ops)...

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  • 6 months later...

A sensor-suite setup I used for a star-faring vessel, based loosely on Trek.  Sensor suite overall done as an Environmental Control, each done as a Detect A Large Class Of Things, Increased arc of perception 360*, Discriminator, Analyze, Targeting, Affected as more than one sense (Sight), OIF Bulky, Extra time (only to activate)

EC: Science Scanners

Astrometric Scanner - Provides info on any and all bodies in space, such as planets, moons, stars, asteroids, nebulae, black holes/quasars/pulsars, etc.

Energy Scanner - all forms of energy and radiation, such as power sources, gravitational effects, "radar"/scanner/sensor beams, "radio"/communication waves, magic, psionics, energy-based powers, thermal, electrical, magnetic, chemical, sonic, nuclear, solar, or other forms of energy


Dimensional/Translocative Phenomena Scanner - other-dimensional beings/materials/phenomena, temporal phenomena/disturbances/anachronisms, translocative phenomena such as teleportation, wormholes, extra-dimensional movement, dimensional/temporal instabilities/disturbances, and FTL phenomena such as trips traveling at warp speeds, etc.


Planetary Scanner - geological, atmospheric, meteorological, oceanographic, environmental, planetary conditions, population centers, tech levels, etc.


Biological Scanner - Detects life signs as well as any other specific races/species for which the scanners have data, specific individuals for which the scanners have data, etc.  See Ultimate Vehicle p. 143


Physical Scanner - any physical substance for which the scanners have data, automata, electrical/electronic systems - detect presence if deactivated, detect function if active


Vehicular Scanner - presence/status/type of vehicular traits and systems, such as weapons, engines, communications, scanners/sensors, shields/force fields/force walls/etc., armor, missile deflection, other offensive or defensive systems


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On 7/7/2021 at 3:40 PM, pinecone said:

Mass scanner, using the Higgs field?


"Science station, what do the mass sensors say?"


"Sir! Apparently there are no Catholic services within sensor range, sir."


"Very well. Communications, notify the crew that Chef will be in charge of the wine and communion wafers again this week. Oh, and that the internal speaker systems are not to be used as confessionals."

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The best real world radar system can detect a basketball sized object in geosynchronous orbit, 22,000 nautical miles above the surface.  One could probably extrapolate the necessary telescopic and PER adds to achieve that effect, and assume that's on the low end for a starfaring civilization.  Determining the precise speed and heading of an object further than a light second away is probably going to be challenging.



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Sensor things, based loosely on Master of Orion and some of my own interpretations.


Each TL advance allowed an additional 25 Active Points.  Most sensors were built on 25 points, with modifiers of 25 AP each, Active, Microscopic, Nanoscale, Molecular, Quantum, Megascale, Planetary, Orbital, System, Lightyear.


Your empire had to possess the knowledge of certain SFX types to have these sensors:

Optical, Infrared, Laser Radar, Radar, Chemical, Radiation, Warp, Seismic, Environmental, Botanical, Magnetic, Ionic, Neutrino, Biological, Psionic, Motion, Gravity, Microbial, Neural, Medical, Density, Tachyon, Particle, Flux, Genetic, Viral, Antimatter, Multiphase, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Subspace, Quantum



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One of the things about the sensor array in Star Trek and other shows is the lack of detail as to what is being detected and how.


Essentially in space what can you detect:


Radio Waves:  Believe it or not this might be the most difficult thing to detect and analyze.  Why because Radio waves are longer than visible light.  Radio waves used for radio fall in the 3khz to 300 GigaHz range.  This is the limit that we can detect with a radio receiver.  The longer the radio waves the wider the attenae array and at some point we would need radio dishes larger than the ship to detect.  Perhaps future tools can find a way around this.


At some point gamma radiation will be difficult to detect because there will be too much energy in the electromagnetic wave and it will destroy any sensor used to pick it up.  This covers the electromagnetic spectrum or photons and is probably the best source of particles to detect.


After that the easiest thing to detect are neutrinos which are small almost massless particles that surround space.


Beyond neutrinos would be the ability to detect gravitational waves which would be very high level technology even for space opera as they are caused by the warping of the fabric of space time itself.


These three things would probably be the only things a starship could "detect" with its sensors.  Figuring out mass of planets, life, technological industry, the fact a ship is charging weapons would all be a factor of computations of the exact things detected in these three particles.


So if you don't wat to just use a VPP and want a more hard science fiction feel I would suggest three detects.  One for photons (electromagnetic waves), one for neutrinos and one for what ever is the particles for gravity be they higgs boson, gravitons or determining the warp in space and its change.  You could apply megascale, telescoping, rapid, analyze etc to the detect in levels to delineate the level of the sensor.


To detect a certain element or life or energy level etc. you determine the minimum level of rolls on the sensor for the item.  If successful all this means is the ship's sensors were able to gather the information required.  After that then there must be some type of computer assisting which will decipher what the evidence means regarding the information desired,


This could be an INT based AI with the necessary skill to detect the information.  The roll determines how long it takes to figure the information out. 


These means you have only three sensors to detect electromagnetic waves, neutrinos and gravity waves.  This is the hardware and peripheral device.


Then you have an AI dedicated to sensing outside the ship which is the sensor array.  It has several programs which are in fact skills that do the actual detecting.  So Detect Life is a skill, etc.  The level of data the sensor collected on the three energies would then lead to a bonus or negative mod to the skill rolls depending on what minimum level is required.  

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