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ArkangeL2

Crew Numbers and Ship stuff

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I'm working on an adventure where the acolytes have to board an Imperial frigate (sword-class to be specific).  Does anyone have any idea how many crew would typically be found aboard such a ship?  How about decks, how many would you say? 

I'm leaning towards the following:

Crew total: 500 - 1,000 (not including those press-ganged into service)

Decks: 15-20

If you look at the picture of the ship (you can find it on GW's site in the BFG material) or on the Lexicanum wiki.

Thanks in advance for the help,

Arkangel

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I would say that a Sword Class Frigate is about 1-1.5km long. There was a huge debate on ship size a while back on the Black Library forums which ended up with a BL author weighing in to say that the consensus view among GW authors and writers was that the "classic" BFG cruiser was approx 3 km long, and that all other vessels ahould scale roughly from there.

So if a cruiser is about 3km long, I'd say a sword class is roughly 33-50% of the size, making it about 1-1.5km long. 

On that reading, I think that 15 decks sounds about right for the main "spine" of the ship, but that there could be more decks around the "taller" parts of the ship like the engines and the bridge.

I think your crew numbers sound a little light - I always saw BFG ships as being very crowded, a bit like the "golden age of sail" ships portrayed in the Patrick O'Brian books. During the Napolenic era you had 250 or so crew on a frigate only 30 metres long, all of whom would be stuck together for years at a time. One way you could do it is take a modern large naval vessel - say a Nimitz class aircraft carrier - and scale it up to 1.5km long and increase the crew size pro rata...  

Anyway, just my thoughts, there's no hard or fast answers as far as I know, so it's however you want to play it! happy.gif

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No actually I like it.  I was thinking along the same lines regarding the decks.  I estimated about 15 decks for the "spine" with another 10 levels that would consist of the command spires (bridge, navigator quarters, astropathic choirs, etc.) and maybe a few extra levels on the dorsal spires for supplies etc.

As far as ship crew, I always have a hard time thinking that people actually lived like that on sailing ships - but it' true.  So maybe a frigate would have somewhere around 1,500 Imperial crew, and maybe another 500 - 1,000 in press-ganged ratings (guys that load the guns and stoke the engines, etc.).  The book Sword of Damocles gives some insight into crew of a rogue trader ship, but we're talking pride of the Imperium here.  At least knowing scale now helps a bit.

Thanks,

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Funny you brought this up, I was going to start a thred on the crew of a Rogue Trader, but Ill just post it here for the sake of saving space.

In one of the scenarios I'm working on I was thinking a Rogue Trader ship similer to the one out of Eisenhorn, but I would like some crew to serve as NPCs. So aprox how many would it take to crew a Rogue Trader, including servitors and the like?

 

Sorry for Hijacking the thred.

-Ira-

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No worries!  I was working on this last night, in fact.  I came up with a chart that shows ship class, type, number of decks, and crew approximations. Mind, this is all pure specualtion based on the sizes given - ALL of it is extrapolation:

Ship Class Type Length Decks Crew
Emperor Battleship 6.0 km 52 5,000
Retribution Battleship 6.0 km 52 5,000
Apocalypse Battleship 6.0 km 50 5,000
Oberon Battleship 6.0 km 50 5,000
Mars Battlecruiser 5.5 km 47 4,000
Overlord Battlecruiser 5.5 km 47 4,000
Armageddon Battlecruiser 5.0 km 45 4,000
Vengeance Grand Cruiser 4.0 km 45 3,500
Avenger Grand Cruiser 4.0 km 45 3,500
Exorcist Grand Cruiser 4.0 km 45 3,500
Lunar Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Tyrant Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Dominator Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Gothic Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Dictator Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Dauntless Light Cruiser 2.5 km 30 2,700
Endeavour Light Cruiser 2.5 km 30 2,700
Endurance Light Cruiser 2.0 km 30 2,000
Defiant Light Cruiser 2.0 km 30 2,000
Sword Frigate 1.5 km 22 1,500
Firestorm Frigate 1.5 km 22 1,500
Cobra Destroyer 1.0 km 15 1,000
Falchion Escort 1.0 km 15 800
         
         
         
 

Now taking all this into consideration, and looking over the material published for Battlefleet Gothic on Rogue Traders (and information from the book Star of Damocles) , and assuming that a "typical" Rogue Trader vessel is cruiser-class I would have to say that you're looking at about 2,000-3,000 crew members (including ratings that were press-ganged at the last port of call for the ship).  Smaller ships would have, of course, a proportionately smaller crew.  But, I would think that RTs try to get the most out of their charter so they tend to run on the light side of crew (i.e. a minimum crew to pay and supply).  Sorry if this sounds like rambling - I'm running on only a few hours sleep.

IIRC in Eisenhorn, the RT he hooked up with used servitors for most of the crew.  That might be more economical in the sense that he doesn't have to pay them and keeping them fed wouldn't be as big a problem either since he would only have to keep their organic parts nourished.  But that could be offset by the fact that he would have to have a tech-adept on board who could maintain them, etc.  But I would have to say that a typical RT cruiser would probably have about 2,000 able-bodied crewmen aboard, plus another 700 - 1,000 "service" types (i.e. servitors, cooks, preachers, confessors, loaders, etc.).  Now I'm probably coming in on the light side since it does seem to me that these ships would be stuffed with as many crew as they can handle if for nothing other than replacements for ones that die in accidents and battle. 

In modern day, a typical naval frigate has about 170 crewmen aboard.  They run in shifts so it's not like all of them are active at once (except during battlestations).  I don't know, what do you think?

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A battle ship has been mentioned to have an upward of 30000 crew members, not counting servitors.  Honestly though GW is so vague about their fleet sizes that you can make almost anything up and it could fit.  100 crew members?  the ship has a lot of servitorts, 10000? the ship has none. 

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Great stuff. I think you’re spot on for all the lengths and the number of decks, but I still think your crew complement is a little light on all of the ships.
 
I’d argue that a modern Nimitz class aircraft carrier is a possible analogy to the likely crew compartment of an Imperial Naval vessel. Both are sealed metal vessels with extensive internal space which are expected to cruise without refuelling for months or even years at a time.
 
According to wikipedia, the aircraft carrier is 317 metres long and 78 metres wide. It has a crew of 3,200 and an extra 2,500 working on the air wing. That’s 5,700 crew in a ship about one fifth the size of a sword class frigate.
 
If you want to take out the confusing angle of the air wing, you could alternatively scale up the USS Missouri, a WWII battleship: again, according to wikipedia, this vessel was 270 metres long and 33 metres wide, with a crew of 2700.
 
Let’s scale this up to a sword class BFG frigate: I’m going to disregard the width of the frigate, as it always seemed a pretty narrow vessel. Basically, at its simplest, I’m going to take the length of the Sword class frigate (let’s say for the purposes of this exercise 1500 metres) and divide it by 270 metres. This produces 5.556. This shows that a sword class frigate is 5.556 times longer than the USS Missouri. Then I take this figure and multiply the Missouri’s crew – this gives me 15,001 crew!
 
Now actually that seems a little high even to me, so let’s look at the sword class frigate: almost a third of the vessel is the elegant prow/ram. I reckon a lot of that shace is relatively empty and is just stacked full of heavy armour.
 
Plus I reckon that the engine space is more sparsely populated than the rest of the ship due to radiation/risk of daemonic incursion etc.
 
So I’m going to knock about a third off the crew complement to cover those emptier spaces within the vessel: this, in my mind points to a likely crew complement of about 10,000 men or so. This means that my view is that if you multiply your figures by a factor of ten or so, you'll be closer to the crew complement of all of the Imperial vessels. This makes them crowded, but no more so than real naval vessels have ever been.

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Do note that the volume of something increases with the square of a change in dimensions, so a ship scaled up to be five times the length will have 25 times the volume (and hence a Sword would need a crew of 90000 to keep the same density as an Iowa, with a 6km battleship needing 1.3 million souls (packing the ships to the same density as a napoleonic ship of the line would need nearer 10 million)).

Also bear in mind that the Imperium is vast - hive worlds have trillions of inhabitants, and the Guard is going to be regularly shipping millions upon millions of men across interstellar distances to fight their wars. A small Imperial offensive, on the scale of Nazi Germanys invasion of Russia, might involve 5 and a half million men under arms. A war on a hive world, billions. A major Imperial Navy fleet engagment should be of no lesser scale.

An Imperial Warship, lest you wish it to be an immense, empty cathedral, must truly be a city in space.

Merchant vessels may have much smaller crews.

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arkangel said:

Ship Class Type Length Decks Crew
Emperor Battleship 6.0 km 52 5,000
Retribution Battleship 6.0 km 52 5,000
Apocalypse Battleship 6.0 km 50 5,000
Oberon Battleship 6.0 km 50 5,000
Mars Battlecruiser 5.5 km 47 4,000
Overlord Battlecruiser 5.5 km 47 4,000
Armageddon Battlecruiser 5.0 km 45 4,000
Vengeance Grand Cruiser 4.0 km 45 3,500
Avenger Grand Cruiser 4.0 km 45 3,500
Exorcist Grand Cruiser 4.0 km 45 3,500
Lunar Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Tyrant Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Dominator Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Gothic Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Dictator Cruiser 3.0 km 42 3,000
Dauntless Light Cruiser 2.5 km 30 2,700
Endeavour Light Cruiser 2.5 km 30 2,700
Endurance Light Cruiser 2.0 km 30 2,000
Defiant Light Cruiser 2.0 km 30 2,000
Sword Frigate 1.5 km 22 1,500
Firestorm Frigate 1.5 km 22 1,500
Cobra Destroyer 1.0 km 15 1,000
Falchion Escort 1.0 km 15 800
         
         
         
 

Those (the crew numbers) seem a little small to me, but then I've always had my own rough methods of defining crew sizes. The deck numbers (for everything) and ship lengths (for everything but the frigates, destroyers and escorts) seem like they could do with a little up-scaling as well, personally. I've tended to work from the premise of a 3-mile (4.8km) cruiser and a 5-mile (8km) battleship, and the number of decks, given the sheer size of these craft, could well be three times what you've listed.

During the earliest parts of the playtest, the campaign started out with the group in transit aboard a Dauntless-class Light Cruiser. My rough estimates gave even a humble light cruiser a mass of a little over 10 billion tonnes and just over 3km long, and a crew of about 12,000 skilled crewmen (10,450 enlisted crewmen, 1,050 petty officers and 500 commissioned officers of various ranks) and between 45 and 60 thousand indentured labourers.

I worked on a basic assumption of approximately 2,000 skilled crew for every "hit" the ship possessed in the wargame - a convenient numerical measure of ship size. Thus, a standard cruiser or battlecruiser has about 16,000 skilled crew and 4-5x as many slave labourers (64-80 thousand souls), while a battleship has roughly 24,000 skilled crew and between 90 and 120 thousand labourers. Frigates like the Sword and Firestorm tend to have around 1,800-2,000 skilled crew (and again, 4-5x that number in indentured labour), while the much smaller Cobra-class Destroyers tend to have about 1,000-1,500 skilled crew, with between 4 and 7 thousand indentured labourers).

I use roughly the same kind of calculations for other species as well - an Astartes ship (or a Tau one, for that matter) has maybe 750 crew per hit, as they're far more automated than Imperial Navy vessels (unskilled labourer numbers would be used to determine the servitor/drone compliment, respectively - a Battle Barge would have approximately 9,000 Chapter Serfs crewing it, and about 40,000 servitors), while an Ork ship might have half as many crew again as an Imperial ship of equivalent mass (about 30,000 Orks on the average Kill Kroozer, with hundreds of thousands of Gretchin slaves), and an Eldar ship might only have 120 crew per hit (and no unskilled labourers - those functions are automated and overseen by the ship's infinity circuit; a cruiser might only have seven hundred or so Eldar aboard).

Of course, these are just my preferences and opinions. GW avoided giving any official sizes to anything in BFG - there are a few comments here and there by designers, though (such as the notion that the Imperial Navy Fury Interceptor, used against anti-ship bombers and ship-to-ship torpedoes, are about the size of a modern airliner, or Andy Chambers' comment that a single lance turret on an Imperial Navy cruiser has about 2,000 occupants).

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Is it worth noting that an 8km ship with the same crew density and shape as the afore mentioned ww2 battleship would have 2.3 million crew (while an 8km ship of the line would have 17 million)?

I like the large numbers. What awe would an Imperial Fleet Captain be held in? How tribal could their crews be, who have never known a world outside their ship? How epic would a boarding action be, with hundreds of thousands of marines (not, yknow Marines (Captial M, Capital Power Armour)) crossing the void between ships to do battle? What strange things could be consealed deep withing the bowels of such a vessel? What efforts would be involved in its construction, and what magnitude of loss would its destruction represent?

What stirings of pride and awe would the sight of such a mighty engine of the Emperors will going to war provoke?

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It might only be a fan project, but a part of the Anargo Sector Project is to develop full RPG and BFG statistics for the Venturer-class starship (made up class!), with the aims of also producing full deck plans, 3d images and walkthroughs, etc.  It's still in its earliest stages, but you can find more information here.

Just thought that I would mention it.  Make of it what you will.

Kage

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Yeah, I kinda thought that the crew numbers would be light.  I just have a hard time imagining tens of thousands (if not millions) of people crewing a ship!  But hey, it's the 41st Milllennia.  Honestly, logistics-wise we also need to consider food, water, air, etc.  Not to mention fabrication workshops, hangars, munition storage and more.  Yes...I'm nitpicking here happy.gif.

Now for a Sword-class frigate (an escort with laser turrets) it might be safer to say that the crew compliment is more around 3,000 - 5,000.  Maybe...

It has been mentioned in the Inquisitor's HB that there are decks on ships where no one goes and where strange things dwell.  IIRC, I seem to recall reading something back in the day (White Dwarf) where ship crews pretty much lived and died without ever seeing the outside of the vessel.  Some sources mention crews of tens of thousands, and others more or less.  I like what I'm seeing here so please keep it coming.  I'll refine the numbers tonight and see about reposting the chart in the AM.  That thought about crews becoming tribal and crossing the void intrigues me demonio.gif.

Let me think on it for the night.

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It is worth noting, for anyone who knows about other sci fi games or series, that space ships in 40k are truely huge.  Even the smaller ships are bigger than star trek battleships, star wars imperial star destroyers etc.

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Dezmond said:

Is it worth noting that an 8km ship with the same crew density and shape as the afore mentioned ww2 battleship would have 2.3 million crew (while an 8km ship of the line would have 17 million)?

But would they need the same crew density? Certainly, on the lower decks where you're dealing with very tight confines and large numbers of people, but I imagine that the population density reduces the further up the ship you get, to the point where the sections frequented primarily by officers are virtual palaces, broad and spacious and clean and ornamented (along with a sickbay more akin to a city hospital in size, vast cavernous gun decks, tens of metres high, etc). We're also not dealing with ships of the same shape or configuration - several hundred metres, maybe as much as a kilometre in some cases, of an Imperial Navy capital ship is engine, and there are likely to be vast sections that aren't habitable for whatever reason, and with various cavernous areas aboard the ship, there's a lot of space denied to the crew.

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Even the engines are going to need hundreds of thousands of pressure-harnessed serfs pulling on ropes to adjust the rocket nozzles... :-)

 

 

 

 

If theres one thing I love, it is throwing away serfs. And the Imperium has loads to spare.

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Okay, I was thinking about all your comments and input (which I really appreciate).  Then it hit me!  The adventure "Shades on Twilight" has a map of an Inquisitorial Black Ship!  IIRC these are essentially cruisers with most of the holds converted into holding pens for psykers.  That gave me a base-line reference since the map was kind enough to come with a scale.  Measuring it out I came up with this:

Length = 2,400 meters (2.4 km)

Width = 1,000 meters (1.0 km) -at its widest point

Height = 1,000 meters (1.0 km) -at its tallest point

So, that helps to reinforce the lengths I put in.  I also used the holds as a reference for the number of decks the ship has (this is all assuming the decks are the same height, which they're not since you have massive cargo holds for food, water, air, etc. and the engine room, and other large areas)  But let's keep it simple.  By the scale I used, I came up with about 15 decks measuring from the tallest points to the lowest points.  Okay, that comes in really light to what I have, but...neh.  Now for the numbers of crew.  I have to consider a few things like food, water, air, and waste recycling (which might reduce the amount of the other 3 needed - gross, I know).  I also can't help but go back to the Ghilliam - those freaks that live in the black holds of ships, and the fact that most Imperial ships are hundreds if not thousands of years old!  I imagine there are places on these ships that even the captain wouldn't know about.  I also remember reading in Star of Damocles where a few hundred press-ganged ratings were laboring to pull on massive chains to secure the ship's docking clamps while officers yelled and screamed at them cracking whips and such.  So, I took Lightbringer's advice and scale up the crew numbers by a factor of 10.  Assume these are averages - if you need more, use more and if you need less, use less.  Keep in mind that a ship will have to have stores for munitions, spare parts, manufactoriums, chapels, berthing, mess halls, latrines, and more.  Yes I would say a ship's crew (more so for those toiling away below decks than the officers) would form some sort of tribal culture.  Heck, voidborn are like that.  And I love Dezmond's vision of serfs being tossed into the fray, etc. No-1_H3R3 also has a good point with the idea that maybe the lower decks would be packed but that some areas would be palacial (like the navigator's sanctum or the ship's main chapel).  Now, Space Marine ships (which I'll tackle a bit later) would probably have much lower numbers with the majority of the crew being bonded serfs.  I can't imagine the Battle Brothers not wanting to keep a tight rope around the crew that takes them into battle cool.gif.

So without further ado, here's my revised chart for Imperial ships of the Line:

Ship Class Type Length Decks Crew Min.
Emperor-class Battleship 8.0 km 60 50,000
Retribution-class Battleship 8.0 km 60 50,000
Apocalypse-class Battleship 7.0 km 55 45,000
Oberon-class Battleship 7.0 km 55 30,000
Mars-class Battlecruiser 6.0 km 47 40,000
Overlord-class Battlecruiser 6.0 km 47 40,000
Armageddon-class Battlecruiser 6.0 km 45 40,000
Vengeance-class Grand Cruiser 5.0 km 45 35,000
Avenger-class Grand Cruiser 5.0 km 45 35,000
Exorcist-class Grand Cruiser 5.0 km 45 35,000
Lunar-class Cruiser 3.0 km 42 30,000
Tyrant-class Cruiser 3.0 km 42 30,000
Dominator-class Cruiser 3.0 km 42 30,000
Gothic-class Cruiser 3.0 km 42 30,000
Dictator-class Cruiser 3.0 km 42 30,000
Dauntless-class Light Cruiser 2.5 km 30 27,000
Endeavour-class Light Cruiser 2.5 km 30 27,000
Endurance-class Light Cruiser 2.0 km 30 20,000
Defiant-class Light Cruiser 2.0 km 30 20,000
Sword-class Frigate 1.5 km 15 15,000
Firestorm-class Frigate 1.5 km 15 15,000
Cobra-class Destroyer 1.0 km 15 10,000
Falchion-class Escort 1.0 km 10 8,000

Now, the numbers of crew would (again) be averages.  The number of decks are based on the scale of things like windows (you can see cathedral-like windows on some of the drawings) and a 20-25 ft tall (65 - 82 m) deck.  Some decks will be smaller and some will be larger.  The only thing I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around is  8,000 people crewing a small escort like the Falchion, but neh!

I hope that the Powers-That-Be will put out a sourcebook on these ships (and Rogue Traders) <hint> <hint>.  I do like No-1_H3R3's "rule of thumb" of using 2,000 crew per "hit" a ship possesses.  Maybe this would be a good benchmark for xenos ships.  Just a thought.  Thanks 4 everyone's input.  I'm still refining this so any more feedback will be greatly appreciated.

 

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Great work, Arkangel, I personally believe your numbers are spot on. They give the impression of vast and heavily populated ships without being TOO vast and heavily populated!aplauso.gif

One thing I might add is that these numbers are likely to vary massively from ship to ship. Not every sword class frigate will have 15,000 crew: in fact I reckon it's characterful for many Battlefleet Calixis ships to be short of crew, and forced to pressgang unwilling crew/serfs from each planet they stop at!

As I mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of the Patrick O'Brian "Master and Commander" books, and in those books the early 19th century Royal Navy routinely set out on missions short of crew, and would impress them as they voyaged from passing merchant vessels.

Also, ships on long voyages may have suffered plagues or other disasters during the voyage, and lost large numbers of crew as a result.

Conversely, if a captain was expecting a battle, it's quite conceivable he'd load up with as many crew as he could fit within the ship, as he knows that there'll be many casualties, and he needs enough men to serve the guns on both sides of the ship at once!

I reckon you could increase/decrease the crew of each and every vessel on your chart by as much as 50%  to account  for these factors, depending upon what the individual ship has been up to recently...and of course on the needs of the GM! happy.gif  

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When getting those huge numbers, remember that the imperium has at its disposal servitors to do things that they don't need humans to do.  2.3 million crew might be 2 million servitors and 300000 actual people.  And servitors are easier to replace then humans (I know amazing).  Dark apostle had the mechanicum literally pumping them straight out of vats and into battle by the tens of thousands.  In a few hours.

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I love the merzo site, but its proportions are wrong when it comes to BFG ships. Richard Williams, a Black Library author, came onto the Black Library site a few months back to qualify that the consenus view among BL authors that the correct size for an Imperial cruiser is 3 kilometres long. In one of his books he'd described the Imperial cruiser as being larger than this, and went online to clear up his discrepancy.

This means that the Merzo images are too big. To be clear, a Sword class frigate is roughly the same size (perhaps a little smaller) as a Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer.

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But a cobra is about half the size of a cruiser, more or less.  Bearing in mind a sword has a huge armoured prow compared to the cobra.

Either way you can roughly compare the an imperial escort to a star destroyer, which if you think about it is actually a lot smaller in physical shape due to the mass involved.  As numbers for 40k ships are somewhat rare, I have looked into numbers on star destroyers for us to consider.

On consulting wookieepedia, a star destroyer has 9235 officers, 9700 combat infantry, 27850 enlisted men and 27 gunners.  This is not including all the various tie-fighters, bombers, AT-ATs etc. 

So its quite concievable that a sword frigate has 50,000 souls on board.

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Crimsonsphinx said:

But a cobra is about half the size of a cruiser, more or less.  Bearing in mind a sword has a huge armoured prow compared to the cobra.

Except that we don't know this for certain - none of the BFG models are to scale with anything but similar sized craft (Escorts are in scale with escorts, capital ships with capital ships, and even then, only loosely)

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I was pretty sure they were supposed to be in scale with each other in gothic?  At least I am pretty sure I read that they were, I don't have my rulebook for that system on me at the moment.

The models of the ships certainly seem within the same scale as each other, as regards weapons on the models.

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