This article originally appeared in Pyramid #3

Designer Notes: GURPS Vehicles

by David L. Pulver

Author David Pulver sent us these vignettes, set in his own world and using the rules from GURPS Vehicles.

Jordan's cycle swept along the stormy highway, doing 180 mph the wrong way down a one-way street, the passing streetlights a single continuous blur, droplets of rain stinging his body like needles through his light jacket. Behind him came Kysaru W'tatha, astride a sleek Macrotech 9000 turbobike identical to his own -- and like him, she was racing for her life.

For the two young Federation Marine pilots to take their shore leave in Moonjam's kasbah district had seemed like a good idea at the time. but anti-Fed feeling was running high on the 'neutral' colonial world -- too late Jordan had remembered that was one reason the marines were there, to show their flag.

While Jordan's craggy human features blended in with the natives, his alien partner's slit-pupiled eyes, waterfall of silver hair, and lithe midnight blue body made her a living lightning rod for local xenophobia. It was just worse luck that they'd chosen a cycle gang's hangout in which to do their drinking.

Over 200 mph, and the bikers were still gaining! Jordan hit the accelerator, feeding more alcohol into his stolen cycle's turbo-supercharged rotary engine. The bike leapt forward, but not fast enough. The Macrotech was a good -- if obsolete -- machine, but as a wheeled vehicle it just wasn't as fast as the stripped-down jetbikes of the pursuing streetgang.

Two bikers pulled next to him, mouthing obscenities, and moonlight glittered as vibroblades were unsheathed. Jordan hit the brakes, barely avoiding a humming cut that would have taken his head off, wishing Moonjam's customs officials had let him keep his gyroc pistol. Somewhere behind him, he thought he heard Kysaru cry out, hoped she was still alive, but her words were lost in the screaming wind.

Suddenly, the night was shattered by the roar of turbines and the blinding beams of headlights: a huge hovertruck, its bulk filling the lane ahead. With his fighter-pilot reflexes, Jordan sent his bike into a hard turn, feeling 2 g pull against him as the computerized active controls and smartwheels fought to keep his cycle stable on the wet asphalt. He dodged, but the two jetbikers behind him weren't as quick -- or as lucky. Their machines were fast, but not agile. One hoverbike crumpled like tinfoil as it struck the heavy hovercraft's skirts. The other lost control, rolled and burned, its hydrogen tank igniting into a raging fireball that Jordan felt from a dozen yards away. The heavy hovercraft didn't bother to stop.

Jordan looked behind him. The hovercraft was accelerating away from the accident. He scanned the street for a flash of silver hair... just ahead, with company.

The remaining streetganger had closed with her, swinging a monowire whip in a deadly arc, slashing at her tires, her face. With the inhuman speed that was the legacy of her species, Kysaru ducked under his lethal swing, lashed out with one elbow, and smashed him off the bike. He hit the asphalt at 150 mph, bounced twice. End of his story.

The midnight highway was slick with blood and oil, but the road ahead was clear. Jordan waved at Kysaru, breathed a sigh of relief. He couldn't wait to get back to the starport. After this, combat air patrol on Inferno would be a cakewalk!

Macrotech 9000 Turbobike (TL8)
A powerful cycle driven by a big turbo-supercharged ceramic rotary engine, computerized controls and an advanced suspension including terrain-grabbing smartwheels.

Originally built as a military scout bike, it is suitable for use on or off-road.

Structure: 12 cf heavy expensive body, max load 720 lbs., (body HT 80), powered wheeled motive system, two wheels (DR 2, HT 10/20 per wheel), advanced controls, improved and off-road suspension with smart wheels.

Propulsion: TL8 wheeled drivetrain with 80 KW motive power.

Power: TL8 turbo-supercharged ceramic rotary engine (DR 5, HT 15) with 80 KW output, uses 1.2 gallons diesel fuel per hour. Standard fuel tank with six gallons diesel fuel (DR 5, HT 6, fire 7) powers bike for five hours.

Accommodations: Two external seats.

Crew Requirements: Driver.

Accessories: Headlights.

Cargo: .9 cf.

Armor: None.

Statistics: Cost $15,750, design mass 380 lbs., max payload 340 lbs., max cargo load 54 lbs., current payload 200 lbs., loaded mass 580 lbs. (.29 tons), size modifier +0, radar signature +0, IR signature +1, acoustic signature +3.

Ground Performance: Ground speed factor 32 mph, top speed 208 mph, acceleration 10 mph/s, deceleration 10 mph/s, MR 1.75, SR 4. With two people (300 lb. payload, .422 ton loaded mass), top speed is 112 mph, acceleration is 6 mph/s. Gets 50 miles per gallon.

Water and Air Performance: None.

JGEV Truck (TL8)
This is a rugged jet-engined hovertruck designed to carry people or cargo over all manner of terrain. Hovertrucks are often used by the military or by smugglers, since they can move with equal speed on land or water at high speed. The "current load" assumes 6 tons of cargo and three passengers. GEV trucks are common in cyberpunk futures and on colonial worlds like Moonjam.

Structure: 800 cf medium expensive body, max load 32,000 lbs. (body HT 900); hovercraft flight system (PD 3, DR 5, HT 450); sealed body.

Propulsion: Two TL8 variable-bypass turbojet engines each with 1,640 lbs. thrust (total 3,280 lbs.), (DR 5, HT 30 each) burn a combined total of 32.8 gph jet fuel.

Power: As above -- provides 32.8 KW power. Self-sealing fuel tank with 328 gallons of jet fuel (DR 5, HT 100, fire 10) good for 10 hours. Radar (10 KW) powered by jet engines.

Accommodations: Three standard internal seats. Vision: few windows.

Crew Requirements: Pilot.

Weapons: None. (Military versions often add a pintle mount or small chaingun turret.)

Accessories: All TL8. Anticollision radar, cargo ramp (rear), compact fire extinguisher, GPS, IFF, limited life support (96 man-hours), short-range cheap radar (DR 3, HT 2, electronics), spotlight (DR 3, HT 2, electronics), tactical radio with secure link.

Armor: 55 points of expensive armor: F4/10, B4/8, R4/10, L4/10, T4/7, U4/10.

Cargo: 451.68 cf in body.

Statistics: Cost $333,286, design mass 9,420.6 lbs., maximum payload 25,579.4 lbs., maximum cargo payload 18,067.2 lbs., current payload 12,450 lbs., loaded mass 21,870.6 lbs. (10.935 tons), size modifier +4, radar signature +5, IR signature +8, acoustic signature +6.

Ground Performance: None.

Water Performance: None.

Air Performance: Air speed factor 32 mph, top speed 152 mph, acceleration 7 mph/s, deceleration 10 mph/s, MR .5, SR 3, ceiling 42 inches (3.5').


A supersonic ghost glided over the Sea of Dreams. Marine Wing-Shadow Kysaru W'tatha checked the Moonhawk's passive sensors. Nothing. Her squadron-mates had teased her for insisting on making the full sweep around the sea -- hadn't Federation Intelligence said the Domination strike force were regrouping 2,000 miles to the west? But their supposed retreat smelled funny to her, and Ghost had agreed when she suggested a patrol of the far shore. The AI's intuition was rarely wrong. Still, three hours of patrolling had found nothing so far, and she was beginning to wish she had swallowed her pride and returned to base with Jordan and the others.

With her mind interfaced with the computer's sensor displays, it seemed to Kysaru that she floated in an endless yellow fog. Overhead, Inferno's two moons glittered, pallid disks all but invisible in the world's murky atmosphere. Within her shielded cockpit, the antimatter ramjet's vibrations were almost inaudible, and their was little to spoil the illusion that she it was her skimming the waves at mach 3, rather than the airplane. It was very peaceful, she thought - perhaps deceptively so.

Kysaru checked her thermograph again, a slow 360 scan. Nothing on low-light TV either -- wait! The flickering green of the light amplification monitor showed something near the coast that didn't look altogether like a rock. She was sure it hadn't been there on her last sweep, and Kysaru thought its infrared signature blended a bit too perfectly into the background waves.

"Ghost, enhance the object I am now looking at - run a passive radscan and sensor analysis - I think it's a vessel of some kind."

"Running. Yes, Wing-Shadow. It matches the sensor-profile of a submarine assault transport, likely the Ilshani Stingray class, complement four Cyberwraith short-range assault mecha. It has just surfaced, and I do not believe it has detected us, Wing-Shadow."

Oh, she had been right -- an alien sneak attack was lurking a half-mile off the coast! She had been lucky; subcarriers only surfaced for the moments they needed to launch or recover their flock -- but if her Moonhawk could take it out on the surface before it launched its short-range mecha, she could kill four birds with one stone!

Kysaru decelerated and aimed her X-ray laser array, claws dancing across the weapons console as Ghost sent targeting vectors into her mind, correcting for atmospheric haze and speed. She aimed for a second, then fired at three miles range. The multi-megawatt laser penciled brilliant lines of sparks through the yellow haze, and were answered by a fireball so intense it nearly blinded her thermograph.

Kysaru overshot, climbed and accelerated into a vertical roll, looping back to finish off whatever was left. She snapped off two IR-homing genius missiles into the burning wreckage on general principles, then started another 360 TV scan to check her six - and froze.

Below her the crippled alien subcarrier was burning brightly, but she realized she had been wrong about one thing. It hadn't been about to launch its flock, it had been waiting to recover them - and now four bright shapes were emerging from the yellow mist: returning Cyberwraith combat mecha, angry children seeking vengeance for a mother's death...

Moonhawk Strike Fighter (TL10)

An example of what TL10 military technology can produce with enough money, this is an fusion air-ram powered stealth fighter, a wedge-shaped hypersonic waverider capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

Lacking the large fuel tank that takes up so much of the mass and volume of lower-TL fighter airplanes, much of its body mass is devoted to self-repairing nanocrystal-bioplastic laminate armor and internal weapons systems. The pilot is cybernetically interfaced with the controls, and its weapons and sensors are guided with the help of a sentient computer. It is packed with ECM systems, and with its ghost surface activated, it can literally turn invisible. Although the deadly glow from its fusion drive makes it easy to spot close up, its stealth systems can partially mask the thermal and neutrino radiation, or it can cut its engine and enter a supersonic glide prior to making its attack run.

Structure: 400 cf extra-heavy advanced body, max load 32,000 lbs. (body HT 1,200), radical aerodynamic streamlining, sealed body, unpowered retractable wheeled motive system, three wheels (PD 2, DR 2, HT 67/133 per wheel), fixed wings (PD 3, DR 5, HT 600 each) with high agility, combat stressed and waverider wing options, vertol flight system; advanced controls; responsive hull; 30 degree front slope.

Propulsion: Two TL10 fusion air-rams (one in each wing) each with 36,500 lbs. thrust for total of 73,000 lbs. thrust, burning 3.65 gph of hydrogen each (total 7.3 gph).

Power: See above. 176 gallon hydrogen tank, self-sealing (HT 60, fire 10) provides 24.1 hours fuel; 4,000 KWH rechargeable power cell energy bank (DR 5, HT 20). Sensors use 103.5 KW, laser uses 3.6 KW.

Accommodations: One roomy internal seat.

Crew Requirements: Pilot.

Weaponry: Four linked TL10 medium missile launchers (DR 5, HT 20 each) with eight med. SRGM and eight med. HVGM rounds in forward fixed mount; one light xasercannon (DR 5, HT 60) in forward fixed mount.

Accessories: ALLTV, Automatic laser designator (DR 3, HT 3, electronics), basic sound baffling, crashweb, compact fire extinguisher, 32 dischargers (16 chaff, 16 flare), ejection seat, EM communicator (DR 3, HT 2, electronics), ghost surface, HUD with pupil scanner, IFF, improved infrared cloaking, inertial navigation system (DR 3, HT 6, electronics), laser rangefinder, laser sensors, limited life support (48 hours), long-distance radio with secure link (DR 3, HT 4, electronics), long-range radar (scan 28, DR 3, HT 20, electronics), long-range thermograph (scan 24, DR 3, HT 10), medium-range multiscanner (scan 18, DR 3, HT 6, electronics), microframe optical AI (complexity 6, DR 3, HT 12, electronics), minicam (DR 3, HT 2, electronics), neural induction field (DR 3, HT 10, electronics), neutrino communicator (DR 3, HT 3, electronics), partial stealth, short-range xadar with xadar range-finder (scan 20, DR 3, HT 4, electronics), terrain-following radar, virtual panorama (via interface), womb seat.

Cargo: 9.8 cf. Four hardpoints.

Armor: 40,000 points advanced laminate regenerating armor with 30 degree front slope. F6/6,000ALR, B6/5,000ALR, R6/5,000ALR, L6/ 5,000AL, T6/5,000ALR, U6/6,000ALR, RW6/5,000ALR, LW6/5,000ALR.

Statistics: Cost $45,795,720, design mass 34,554 lbs., max payload 1,446 lbs., max cargo load 882 lbs., max hardpoint load 1,446 lbs., current payload 150 lbs., loaded mass 34,704 lbs. (17.352 tons), size modifier +4, radar signature -1, IR signature +1, acoustic signature +2.

Ground Performance: Ground speed factor 28, top speed 357 mph, acceleration 13 mph/s, deceleration 10 mph/s, MR .75, SR 4.

Water Performance: None.

Air Performance: Air speed factor 216 mph, stall speed 0 mph, top speed 2,754 mph, acceleration 26 mph/s, deceleration 5 mph/s, MR 22.75, SR 4, ceiling 21,816 yards.

Cyberwraith Assault Mecha (TL9)

This is a 27-ton anthropomorphic battle mecha, humanoid in shape, with a head-turret, two arms and two legs. It stands about 25 feet tall. Its multiple weapons systems include lasers, railguns and brilliant anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. In close-combat, its monowire claws can shred small units in seconds, and its neural interface allow multiple weapons to be fired at once.

A mecha has two battlefield advantages compared to a tracked vehicle or hovertank, which make it very useful for interstellar armies. First, its legs enable it to cross almost any kind of terrain -- a very useful capability for marines who might be fighting on any terrain in any kind of planet. Second, its arms let it act as an engineering vehicle, digging trenches, building or demolishing fortifications, recovering other vehicles, and so on, eliminating the need for specialist vehicles - again, an important consideration for a starmobile armored force where every vehicle has to be carried on a ship.

As a result, infantry have a warm relationship with supporting mecha: with one around, an infantry platoon doesn't have to spend hours or days at backbreaking work to get entrenched!

The Cyberwraith has engines, and enough fuel, to let it fly for a brief time. This improves tactical mobility, allowing the mecha to fight in space or fly from a submarine to shore and back again.

It's price does not include computer programs. Software is usually customized to needs and finances of the purchaser.

Structure: 600 cf extra-heavy advanced body, max load 54,000 lbs. (body HT 1,500); two legs (PD 6, DR 3,000AL, HT 750 per leg), improved suspension, advanced controls; two heavy mecha arms (ST 1,440, PD 6, DR 2,000AL, HT 750 each); sealed hull; 30 degree front and back slope.

Propulsion: TL9 leg drivetrain, 3,375 KW motive power; fusion rocket with 55,000 lb. thrust (DR 5, HT 125) uses 935 gallons of water per hour.

Power: TL9 fission reactor with 4,000 KW output (DR 5, HT 75); TL9 rechargeable power cell energy bank with 4,000 KWH stored power (DR 5, HT 20), standard fuel tank with 93.5 gallons water reaction mass (10 minutes of flight). Power usage is 3,375 KW for drivetrain, 2.5 KW for ladar and the rest available to recharge the energy bank. Energy weapons are powered from the energy bank.

Turret: 60 cf expensive limited traverse turret, facing forward (turret HT 100), 60 degree slope front, 30 degree back and top.

Accommodations: Two cramped internal seats in hull. Vision: no windows. (Uses sensors.)

Crew Requirements: Single pilot functions as both driver, gunner and sensor operator.

Weapons (in hull): Four TL9 medium missile launchers, linked, in fixed forward mount, with four Md. SRGM and four HVGM. (In turret): 25mm railgun with 50 APSSDU and 50 micronuke shots, autostabilized. (In arms): Each arm has one medium rainbow lasercan and an autostabilizer. Each arm also has monowire claws.

Accessories: All TL9. (In body): ALLTV, autointerface web (two, DR 3, HT 6, electronics), basic IR cloaking, basic sound baffling, compact fire extinguisher, crashwebs (two), dischargers (2 chaff, 3 flare, 3 hot smoke), ejection seats (two), HUDWAC with pupil scanner (two), IFF, inertial navigation system (DR 3, HT 6, electronics), instant chameleon, laser sensors, limited life support (24 man-hours), long-distance radio with secure link (DR 3, HT 4, electronics), NBC kit, optical mini-computer (complexity 4, DR 3, HT 4, electronics), partial stealth, short-ranged sound detector (scan 18, DR 3, HT 4, electronics), spotlight (DR 5, HT 2, external equipment), terrain following ladar, virtual panorama (for both seats), womb seats (two). (In turret): ALLTV, Laser rangefinder, medium range thermograph (scan 20, DR 3, HT 4, electronics), short range ladar (scan 20, DR 3, HT 4, electronics). (In left arm): Lasercom.

Armor: On body, 24,000 points of advanced laminate ablative armor plus 30 degree front and back slope: F6/9,000AL, B6/4,500AL, R6/4,000AL, L6/4,000AL, T6/3,000AL, U6/4,000(AL). Mecha arms are each 6/2,000AL. On turret, 18,000 points of advanced laminate ablative armor, 60 degree front slope, 60 degree top slope, 30 degree back slope, TF6/7,000AL, TB6/4,500AL, TR6/-4,000AL, TL6/4,000AL, TT6/6,000AL.

Cargo: 3.925 cf in body.

Statistics: Cost $9,202,917.5, design mass 53,657.5 lbs., current payload 300 lbs., loaded mass 53,957.5 lbs. (26.978 tons), size modifier +4, radar signature -1, IR signature -2 (+4 when using fusion rocket), acoustic signature +0 (moving on ground), +3 (flying with fusion rocket).

Ground Performance: Ground speed factor 12 mph, top speed 60 mph, acceleration 7.5 mph/s, deceleration 25 mph/s, MR 3.5, SR 6.

Water Performance: none.

Air Performance: Air speed factor 36 mph, top speed 90 mph, acceleration 5 mph/s, deceleration 10 mph/s, MR 4, SR 3, ceiling 2,700 yards.


Starfisher heeled crazily as her sail caught the sudden crosswind, sending fountaining sprays of acid spattering off the windscreen. It was all Mordant could do to keep the boat from capsizing as she rolled and pitched in the churning yellow sea, but he held her steady through the squall and calmly reduced sail, bringing her back on course. He grinned. Inferno's weather took some getting used to, but at least his cameras had been recording...

Mordant turned to face his guest, and was rewarded by a high-pitched trill that made his eardrums ache - D'ken voices had an ultrasonic range, and his passenger had forgotten to modulate hers.

"Ancestors, you rescue me just to kill us both?" With her mouth open in anger, Kysaru's face lost its humanity. Her sharp bony teeth and flickering forked tongue made her look like some exotic demon. The tiny claws on her good hand dug into the chair's cover, gouging small furrows.

To Mordant, she looked genuinely scared, so unlike her icy calm when he had pulled her twisted body from the wreckage of her downed fighter. A night in the boat's automed did wonders for her injuries, but, Mordant reflected, not her temper. No one said being a good samaritan was easy, but he wasn't going to take this on his own deck.

"Hey, keep your voice down, silver-eyes, I pulled you out of the drink, remember? It's just a little squall, nothing Starfisher can't handle. That EMP pulse from your little war may have fried my sailing computer, but she's still a lively boat. Oh, would you mind taking your claws out of my seat - it is real leather."

Kysaru looked at the marks, and felt silly. After all, she had burned three out of four Ilshani mecha and survived a Domination micronuke. What was a little rough sailing? She struggled to keep her breathing slow.

Seeing her expression, Mordant chuckled, continued more gently. "I admit it's a good thing the bioplastic sails are self-repairing, though. The sulfuric acid in the water's worse than the atmosphere, at least in this part of the lake, and the spray was certainly lively enough. Should be smooth sailing now that the quake's aftershocks have died down. And I got some good pictures of that storm."

Kysaru stretched, looked out the armorglass window. "Don't think I'm not grateful, Mordant -- I know you're a tourist caught in a war zone. But could you tell me why in my ancestor's names you're trying to cross a sulfur sea in a sailboat? Wouldn't an aircraft, or even a submarine, have been safer and faster?"

"Kysaru, Kysaru," Mordant rose, and took her hand. "Why? Because no one's done it before! Because five generations of my family have sailed the oceans of Earth and Achamandra and hunted seadragons on Cornwall. It's in my blood!" He gestured theatrically, pointing out the windows at the boiling sulfur sea. "Why? Why!? Because it's there!"

And, he added silently, as he looked into Kysaru's wide, slit-pupiled eyes, because Interstellar Xenographic was paying him 500,000 credits to film himself doing it...

Starfisher (TL10)

This is a highly advanced bioplastic-hulled 30-foot sailboat, designed for operation wherever there is wind -- even on alien worlds with incredibly hostile atmospheres!

This particular model is configured as a recreational boat, but it could also easily be used for smuggling or exploration. Its advanced responsive hull and streamlining enable it to make excellent speed with a good wind.

Structure: 1,000 cf extra-light advanced body, max load 15,000 lbs. (body HT 300); flotation hull with average hydrodynamics (maximum flotation 15,000 lbs.); responsive hull; sealed body.

Propulsion: 40-foot TL10 mast with 800 sf of sail (DR 2AR, HT 200) generates 2.4 KW of motive power per mph of wind; at 20 mph, generates 48 KW.

Power: One TL10 solar cell with 10 KW output and one TL10 rechargeable power cell storing 100 KWH. Power is used to operate multiscanner.

Accommodations: Two standard quarters. Vision: Few windows.

Crew Requirements: Sailor.

Weapons: None.

Accessories: All TL10. Airlock membrane, ALLTV, automed (DR 5, HT 62, equipment), compact fire extinguisher, EM communicator (DR 3, HT 2, electronics), heavy compartmentalization, inertial navigation system (DR 3, HT 6, electronics), limited life support (20 man-days), long-distance radio with secure link (DR 3, HT 4, electronics), medium range multiscanner, cheap (scan 17, DR 3, HT 6, electronics), two mini-cams (DR 3, HT 2, electronics), mini-computer (complexity 5, DR 3, HT 4, electronics), neutrino communicator (DR 3, HT 3, electronics), partial stealth, pump (DR 5, HT 20 equipment), short-range sonar, cheap (scan 17, DR 3, HT 4, electronics), spotlight (DR 3, HT 2, electronics)

Armor: 100 points of advanced ablative regenerating armor: F4/15AR, B4/15AR, R4/15AR, L6/15AR, T6/20AR, U6/ 20AR.

Cargo: 17 cf cargo hold.

Statistics: Cost $431,550, design mass 3,755.2 lbs., maximum payload 11,244.8 lbs., cargo payload 255 lbs., current payload 2,000 lbs., loaded mass 5,755.2 lbs. (2.8776 tons), size modifier +4, radar signature -1, IR signature +4, acoustic signature +0.

Ground Performance: None.

Water Performance: Water speed factor 11 mph, top speed with 20 mph wind 28 mph, acceleration with 20 mph wind 1 mph/s, deceleration 11 mph/s, MR .5, SR 2, draft 2 feet.

Air Performance: None.


Kysaru's Universe

Inferno is a recently discovered world located deep within the Phoenix Nebula.

If you'd like to find out more about the Federation, the D'Ken and the Ilshani, we suggest you check out Space Atlas IV.




Article publication date: October 1, 1993


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