Designing Space Battle in RPG

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
In my approach all players get to do one of 5 actions:
1 Control Action in a Crew Station (control the ship)
2 Divert Action/Power to another Crew Station (Aid another)
3 React to Conditions (Repair actions)
4 Combat Actions
5 Personal Actions (eg Heal, use Abilities)

A Ship has four Stations (Propulsion, Deck, Helm and Hull) and all work together to control the Ship. Each station rolls D20 v DC and the rolls of each station accumulate to pass (eg if DC 20 Propulsion might roll 12 and Deck 7 and Helm 10 = 29)* DCs are High, its not easy to control a Starship :)

In Combat any character can make an attack either through unused weapons (Guns, Missiles) or special Crew Station Attacks.

An Ship attack can target the Crew Stations (each has its own AC) OR default to Hull
A Deck attack means crew are Injured*
A Propulsion attack affects Velocity
A Helm attack affects Manoeuvres
A Hull strike affects Ship HP**
*PCs can use the Brace command to shift crew damage to ships systems/rigging
**The Hull has sections as per size and HP is assigned per section, if half of sections are destroyed the ship is wrecked and adrift.


CREW STATIONCONTROLSNotesCombat Options
Propulsion (Wis)Ships Movement (Velocity and Acceleration), relative Altitude and Momentum control (Anchors)Propulsion DC is set by Atmosphere (1d8)

Movement can be Normal or Stealth
-Momentum in Ram Actions
-and Turbulance Waves
-Overdriving engines creates Thruster blasts
-Engine overload to EM Pulse
Deck (Int)Ship Performance (Rigging), Scanning (Lookout) and Signals (Comms) The Deck is the main crew area also operating the miscellaneous ship systems (eg Life Support)- use Sensor Flares to Blind enemy scans
-or Comms Overload (Deafn) reduces enemy manouvers
- Grapple and Boarding Actions (including Tractor Beam)
Helm (Dex)Ships turning, pitch and other manouveres. A Manoeuvres have a velocity cost thus the ship must be movingA ship can turn 45 degrees while maintaining velocity

Other turns require manouveres including 90 Hard Turns and 180 Rotates
-Evasive Manoeuvres +2 AC—Pull Up - forces enemy to take evasive manouvers to avoid collision
- Fly By (Broadsides) - manouvere to allow all guns to fire on a target
Hull (Con)Ships Stability, Hull Integrity and Shields.

Gravity and is part of the Hull systems
The size of a ship determines how many sections it has (same as squares on a grid)The Ships Shields can be reinforced at each section and station-Shift Shield + Station AC
- Reinforce Hull +HP
-Drop Mines/Barrels
- Missiles



Anyway I developed the rules to work with both Sailing Ships and Space Ships
On the basis that space is filled with plasma and “Cosmic winds” refers to the Turbulance generated by the plasma atmospheres and gravity wells of stars, large stellar objects and even the motion of the starship itself.

A ship literally sails through 3D space, when Ships move the DM rolls 1D8 to determine the Atmosphere

1 Becalmed/Gravity Locked - No Propulsion Possible, DC 50 to break
2 Headwinds/Plasma Barrier - DC 40 to move (engines in Overdrive)
3 Forward resistence (Close Reach) - DC 25
4 Stabiliser Drag (Beam Reach) - DC 20 (each pip over 20 adds to acceleration)
5 Normal (Broad reach) - DC 15
6 Tailwind Thrust DC 25 doubles acceleration (Propulsion must beat DC 15)
7 Turbulence DC + 5
8 Storm DC 40 - failure means ship is uncontrolled and can not manoeuvre

* Turbulance Waves - Some skilled Engineers have learnt to use a ships momentum to generate Plasma Waves which they can direct to affect other ships.

Honestly, it sounds like Comms and Engineering are the most boring jobs, which is usually the case. I think all roles should be equally exciting. Keeping track of statistics and distributing energy to others so they can do the fun things, is no fun if you're the one providing the energy.

This all sounds very similar to the boardgame Battlestations. It suffers from the same problem where most jobs on board a spaceship are boring, especially engineering. I think what you need is a system of rules where each job has various exciting strategic choices to make each round, and where engineers are forced to leave their station and go repair things manually, while their ship is tranformed into a hazardous gauntlet mid-battle.

But lets also not neglect the helm. The pilot needs to have access to interesting maneuvres. There has to be more to flying a spaceship than making a pilot check every round and moving the ship forward a few tiles. Spycraft actually has a couple of great rules for vehicle maneuvres during chases, that may serve as some inspiration.
 

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Laurefindel

Legend
In my approach all players get to do one of 5 actions:
1 Control Action in a Crew Station (control the ship)
2 Divert Action/Power to another Crew Station (Aid another)
3 React to Conditions (Repair actions)
4 Combat Actions
5 Personal Actions (eg Heal, use Abilities)

A Ship has four Stations (Propulsion, Deck, Helm and Hull) and all work together to control the Ship. Each station rolls D20 v DC and the rolls of each station accumulate to pass (eg if DC 20 Propulsion might roll 12 and Deck 7 and Helm 10 = 29)* DCs are High, its not easy to control a Starship :)
(,,,)
d20 game of your own design?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
d20 game of your own design?
Yes, it actually started as 3.5 Game where the PCs were sent to establish a foreign Trading Post, got involved with an Air Ship invasion and became pirates. The Atmosphere/Winds rule comes from these Sail rules:)

I then used the rules to try a Space based game.
 

AnimeSniper

Explorer
I know depending on the GM when we played the whole space opera style campaign it was fun and a little nerve fraying until he thrown a few house-rules patches. One was based on Firefly/Serenity during and post-movie reveal of the reapers. another was all players were part of a ships Marine detachment tasked with boarding first Pirate spaceships, rescue a VIP's kid from a neighboring hostile planet which was fubar and sneaky run and gun to steal a ship to get off-planet.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Playtest Update:

I did not have enough players to playtest a combat with all battlestations filled. The exercise was not in vain however as it demonstrated the need for mobility between stations, as Morrus noted repeatedly :)

So here were my observations:

  • Battlestations can bring variety between combats and a more situational tactical element which players can apply to each battle. To what degree? This remains to be seen with more playtest. At one point, players might be tempted to stick to an "optimal" choice for their characters. I'm wondering as to what extent this would be a big "bug".
  • Battlestations remain Helm, Comms, Engineering, and Tactical. Alternate battlestations such as leading a fighter squadron were not tested. So far, fighters have the ungrateful role of taking hits for their mothership as an expensive and limited resource (but consequentially make combat longer; must be explored further).
  • It's essential that battlestations be allowed to be selected by multiple players (essentially be duplicated indefinitely), and that not all stations need to be filled. ATM, the Helm is the only exception to that.
  • Command roles aboard the ship (captain, deck officer, engineer, etc.) need to be detached from battlestations. Let the captain run engineering if they want to; the first mate can man the helm.
  • Battlestations need to bring significantly different options to be justifiable. Some combat tasks (i.e. alternative actions to attacks, some of them being special attacks in their own) are in the process of being re-written to reflect that better. Will require more playtesting.
  • Characters must be able to a) change battlestation halfway thru battle and/or b) perform combat tasks of other battlestations at need. At the moment, this comes at a cost of personal resources (more or less the equivalent of hope in The One Ring rpg). Presently working on rules to swap position, share shields, shunt damage to another (empty) station etc.
  • Combat structure between ground combat and space battles mesh well enough to insert both fights in the same combat round, merging both fights as one combat using the same rules (but with different options). Some compromise had to be made to allow that but are justified IMO.
  • Some of the free "beginning of round choices" (attributing arsenal, routing power etc.) are a bit heavy, slowing down the flow of combat. Requires revision.
  • A party of 2 is less powerful than a party of 4, but a cruiser should remain as powerful as another cruiser regardless of the number of characters on board. A formula applied to enemies allows to balance that. Hesitating between a more-complex-but-more-acurate and a very-simple-but-rougher conversion. The former require a conversion before combat and takes a good paragraph to explain it. The latter can be made on the fly and fits into a sentence. Leaning on the latter ATM.
  • Warships offer more options than transports; logical assumption but wondering if it can be detrimental to game experience/enjoyment. Aiming for a middle compromise...

I think that's it so far...

The premise of the game, if you'd like to know, is a Twilight Imperium (as the board game) RPG using The One Ring mechanics (yes, I know about FFG's Genesis, and I know that Twilight Imperium stemmed from Traveller rpg. I like TI and I like TOR. There isn't more to it, but TOR works well with faction-based character options, as opposed to class-based)
 
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atanakar

Hero
Battlestations remain Helm, Comms, Engineering, and Tactical. Alternate battlestations such as leading a fighter squadron were not tested. So far, fighters have the ungrateful role of taking hits for their mothership as an expensive and limited resource (but consequentially make combat longer; must be explored further).

Great Update.

Fighter wings could be remote controlled from a battle station and you could run them as volleys of missiles to make that phase faster.
 

atanakar

Hero
Great Update.

Fighter wings could be remote controlled from a battle station and you could run them as volleys of missiles to make that phase faster.

I played TI 2E and TI 3e for years. Great game but my back can no longer sustain sitting for so long. Our games usually laster 8-10 hours with 6 super competitive players.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I played TI 2E and TI 3e for years. Great game but my back can no longer sustain sitting for so long. Our games usually laster 8-10 hours with 6 super competitive players.
I never played TI2, but I have TI3 with both extensions and TI4.

TI4 is more streamlined with better integrated rules but the game isn’t shorter. A 4-player game usually takes us 5 hours, 4h30 minimum. We are good and fast players but still...

Presently, my TI3 is used for the RPG, using Command Counters and action cards and whatnot...
 

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