What with Supplement 5-6: The Vehicle Design Handbook and Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles you might have thought that vehicle design was a done deal... but no, here's some more! This book presents three new types of chassis (the ekranoplan, the rocket plane and the ornithopter) and a wealth of new rules for things like vehicle maintenance and design flaws, not to mention lots of other stuff.
We start off with a section of New Chassis Types. There's a brief description of what an ekranoplan actually is - something like an aircraft but relying on ground effect (I think I need to do more research before I understand this!) - and then a whole bunch of variations and features on the theme for you to choose from. Rocket planes (which are capable of lifting off from a standing start rather than belting down a runway) and ornithopters (which flap like birds) are given similar treatment.
Next is a section on Universal Modifications. These may be applied to any vehicle type when you want that feature or effect, and there's quite a lot of them. Perhaps you want to instal a complete command centre in your vehicle (the sort of facilities you need to coordinate rescues or police/military activity), maybe you want a winch or drone racks... or perhaps you want the entire vehicle to be capable of being air-dropped from something even larger. Just reading through the options gives plenty of ideas. Maybe you need to sweep mines or withstand pressure... or just want a touch of luxury.
Not everything works perfectly, of course, so the next section is Quirks and Flaws. Quirks are flavour - like a nasty smell you cannot trace - while flaws can have an in-game effect resulting from poor design or manufacture of the vehicle. If you forsee a lot of hanger time for your creation (or want to avoid it!) head on over to the next section, Maintenance. This provides rules for keeping vehicles in tip-top condition... and what might happen if you don't!
If you want it big, then the section on Designing Ultra-Heavy Vehicles is for you. The Vehicle Handbook was aimed at smaller vehicles, ones on a more personal scale, rather than really enormous ones... yet sometimes that may be what you need. The suggestion here is to build in sections, using the appropriate rules for making heavy vehicles of the appropriate type, and stick them together. This is followed by a section on Weapons, providing even more options for offenseive armament.
The next section covers Vehicles as Robots and Drones. As I write, driverless cars are just about a technical possibility (they're still working on ethical and legal aspects), so in the far future it is likely that virtually any vehicle can be fitted with a robot brain and made autonomous, or operated by a remote controller as a drone. There's even a possibility of a cyborg vehicle, using a sentient brain as controller - something like Anne McCaffrey's brainships - or an artificial intelligence like Keith Laumer's bolos.
Finally, there's a selection of ready-designed vehicles which demonstrate these rules in action, or which can be used in your game straight off. These just scratch at the surface of course, but they give an indication of what is possible. If you enjoy designing vehicles, you'll want to add this book to your resources... and even if you are not a serious gearhead, it provides lots of ideas about vehicle types and capabilities even if you don't want to go through the complete design process.
Return to Special Supplement 3: Vehicle Upgrade Manual page.
Reviewed: 4 August 2015