Dawn Trader Class Merchant Ship

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Deck 1

Deck 2

Deck 3

Deck 4

Decks 5 & 6

Deck 7

Decks 8 & 9

Deck 10

Deck 11

by Tom Verreault

The Dawn Trader Class light freighter is a work horse class of ship for the Capellan Free Merchants. It’s used by the CFM to haul freight, explore, and as an auxiliary warship (all CFM captains hold reserve commissions in the Flight). It was also used originally by the Rim Coalition’s Flight as a warship but was phased out in favor of the Fochrik Flight Works Springblade Class. This development put many decommissioned Dawn Trader class ships on the market at a good price and ensured the popularity of the ship in the Rim and beyond for a long time to come.

The following is a general tech manual for the class but the deck plans are for the CFMS Venture featured in the Mooks Without Number serial adventure.  Most Dawn Trader class ships have a small ship’s launch on deck 9 but Captain Kleevor sold it long ago as excess weight since the Venture has a shuttle as the ships runabout. Now the hatch and bay for the launch functions as an auxiliary air lock and is occasionally used for cargo loading.

Knight Hawks Data

CFMS Dawn Trader-class light freighter

HS: 5  HP:20  ADF:3  MR:3  DCR:40
Max Crew: 14
Weapons: LC, LB, RB (HARM) x6
Defenses: RH, MS(x1)
Engines: 3 Atomic "B"
Computer: Level 4 (151 function points)
Programs: Atomic Drive (5), Life Support (1) x2*,   Alarm (3), Damage Control (3), Lock Out (4),   Astrogation (4), Laser Cannon (1), Laser Battery (1), Rocket Battery (2), Analysis (3), Commerce (3), Communication (1), Computer Security (3), Robot Management (3), Maintenance (1)
Ship's Vehicles:  Small Launch or cargo shuttle

* Note: The two separate life support programs are rates for 30 being capacity each.

HARM munitions were developed by the CFM for dealing with fighter swarms. The name stands for Hyper-velocity Anti-ship Reaction drive Missile.  Its payload is a series of magnetic, shaped charges that scatter over a wide area of hull and blow in unison shredding the affected area of hull. They are simply a different type of rocket that fits the standard rocket battery. They are designed to be a one hit one kill on small fighters though they do the same damage as standard RB ammo. If the basic game rules are being used then HS 1 ships are destroyed by a hit but if advance game rules are in play then the damage table modifier for a HARM hit is -30. This makes it more likely that the damage from HARM ammo goes against the hull points of a ship.

Unique Systems

Atmosphere Landing

The game states that up to HS 5 ships can land but only ships with size A atomic engines can land on planets. One popular interpretation of this is that the prohibition against landing a ship with size B atomics on planet is not about capability but about legislation and concern for the environment. Since the CFM are noted for not always following the niceties of the law the Dawn Trader Class was designed to land on its ventral side.

 Its port and starboard engine struts are aerodynamically designed and lock into horizontal positions to allow for this maneuver but in space where balanced thrust is important they lock into position equidistant from each other and the dorsal engine strut. The engines on the ventral struts also rotate giving it VTOL capabilities for precise handling of this hull size five ship during landing and take-off. The trade-off is that the engine access tunnel within the engine struts is cramped and not air tight. This means anyone attempting access the atomic engines through this passage must have a vacuum suit and they will have to crawl the through the passage. Any attempts to perform over hauls of the ventral engines by accessing through these passages requires 10 extra hours per engine for the overhaul. If the ship has landed the engines are actually easier to access from outside and the overhaul can be done at a savings of 10 hours.

Gimbaled Forward Hull

Because on board gravity is simulated through thrust the decks have a vertical layout to take advantage of this. Landing a ship on its side turns the decks 90 degrees to the gravity of the planet which can be inconvenient. To alleviate difficulties with landing the Dawn Trader class the forward ball section of the ship rotates 90 degrees prior to landing on planet.

The system is external to the hull and is prone to being clogged with dust picked up in the vacuum of space and to being damaged in combat. Because the system requires so much maintenance some ship owners have locked it down and forgo landing their ship. Service robots or crew must clean it weekly and the system must be inspected after combat or the forward hull might jam out of alignment which would prevent the ship from landing.

To rotate the forward hull the hatches between decks 5 & 6 must be sealed and the connecting collar retracts toward deck 6. Likewise the life support connections are sealed (air vent trunk) and the connecting collar is retracted toward deck 6. Power connections are maintained through the gimbaling system. It takes 10 minutes to prepare to rotate the forward hull, 10 minutes to rotate it and 10 minutes to re-establish the connections between the fore and aft parts of the ship.

Once the forward hull is rotated the air lock on deck 3 will connect to the roof hatch on deck 6 and the rocket battery will be pointed straight ahead of the ship. When the ship lands the floor hatch on deck 5 will be underneath the landed ship and may be used to exit the ship via a ladder.  Any shuttle that the ship is piggy backing (usually docked to the air lock on deck 10) must be landed separately or brought inside the main cargo hold (if space allows) and locked down.

The drawbacks of this system is that travel between the aft and fore sections of the ship is only possible by the connecting tunnel that mates to the floor hatch on deck 5 or the main air lock on deck 3 to the roof hatch on deck 6. There is no elevator connection between the two sections.  Also working in the aft section of the ship when it is landed can be inconvenient because the decks are turned 90 degrees to the pull of gravity (reduce all movement there to 1/3).

The Ship

The cross section of the ship, showing where each deck lies in relation to the others, was presented in the Mooks Without Number adventure in issue 1 of the Frontier Explorer (page 24).  It is also available directly from the Images Download section on the website.


There are four elevators. Two are the port and starboard side cargo elevators that run the length of the cargo hold and reach deck 10. Along the sides of the bulkhead for the cargo elevators is a track for a robotic cargo arm. The robotic arms reach every space in the cargo hold and are controlled at the cargo handling station on deck 10. The aft elevator reaches decks 6 through 10 and the fore elevator reaches decks 1 through 5. If an elevator is not engaged or being held it will arrive in one turn when called for.

If power is cut in an area of the ship where an elevator is, that elevator ceases to function. There are hatches in the floor and roof of each elevator that can be opened manually as well as the hatches to each deck and the crew can then use the recessed ladder in the side of the elevator shaft to move about the ship.

If an elevator’s power is cut, automatic brakes engage holding it in place.  The brakes may be deactivated by a technician in two turns with access to the roof of the elevator. If the brakes are disengaged and the ship is under thrust, the elevator will crash to the bottom of its shaft.

Power and Life Support

There is a central engineering chase for air ducts, plumbing, environmental regulation and power conduits. There is always a power connection regardless if the forward hull is rotated but the life support and environment connections only connect at decks 5 & 6. For this reason each section of the hull has a robust and independent life support plant for the times when life support in each hull section must run independently. 

All power and life support (air, temperature regulation, and plumbing) radiates out from the engineering chase and runs under the deck it is supplying.  It would be possible for someone to crawl through the air vent trunk but not through the vents under the floor. The air vent trunk has pressure doors that seal at each deck during combat or for an emergency decompression.

If access is needed to the engineering chase, a wall panel will need to be removed.  These panels are usually found across from the elevator on any given deck.  However, on deck two the power conduit panel is in one of the crew’s quarters and the air vent panel is in the armory.  It takes 3 Alpha Dawn combat turns (18 seconds) to remove a panel.  On decks 4 & 5 there is a sofa latched to the floor blocking these panels, it can be unlatched and moved in 1 AD combat turn.


Pressure doors are identified on the map with a green door frame but the air vent hatches that seal at each deck qualify as a pressure doors as well. It takes 2 turns to open a pressure door after a character has stopped in front of it. The one exception is that the elevator doors open automatically upon arrival at their destination. Once a pressure door is opened a character may move through at half speed. Pressure doors close automatically unless held open. Air vent hatches remain open but are closed for combat and emergency decompression.

Normal doors maybe moved through at half speed after they are opened. These doors will not close automatically.

Suit Lockers

There are two suit lockers, one fore (deck 3) and one aft (deck 10). A character’s suit is in the suit locker where he specifies it is but if not specified prior then it’s in the suit locker closest to the last entrance a character would have used to enter the ship.

Emergency Power

There are back up parabatteries (type A) on each deck. If this battery must be accessed directly it’s usually in the floor beneath the area in front of the fore or aft elevator. These batteries kick in if power is lost to a deck and they will power emergency lights and basic equipment for about 100 hours. They do not power life support, the elevators, or other ship controls. The life support plants have their own dedicated parabattery that keeps them running for 500 hours. If the power conduits are cut due to battle damage an engineer might take an elevator off line and run power past the break using the power runs for the elevator.

If the forward section loses power it cannot fire its laser cannon. The rocket battery will continue to fire but it will drain the deck 3 parabattery completely after three shots and plunge that deck into darkness.

Movement On Board

A character can move about the ship as per AD rules during that style of encounter. If KHs action is occurring then characters can move from one end of the ship to the other in one KHs turn and can probably perform one or more minor actions. If a character moves, they cannot perform spacer subskills from the KHs rules book. A referee should exercise judgment over whether a player is having his character move too far and do too much.