Starship Bridge Battles

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
if you were building a sci-fi system that highly integrated ship board operations with game play, you might have to include class features for a given PC class that accomodates such mechanics - thus needing to revamp every PC class that might be a ship's officer to include such aspects (a lot of work).

Well, I'm thinking that the features are not really that tightly integrated. Typically, in the fiction, the skills and abilities used "away" and those used in starship combat are fairly disjoint. So, the systems can be largely disjoint. Then, with one system, you have the choice - if you don't care much about ship combat (like, say, Firefly), then you largely ignore the subsystem. This won't tend to be unbalancing, so long as you make sure most character choices include the options.

If you are playing with class and levels, then various classes give starship powers or feats in addition to whatever else you'd get. If you are skill based, then at skill levels X, Y, and Z, you get powers or feats, again, in addition to whatever the skills do outside combat.

Adding in fighters then becomes pretty simple - one of your combat roles is "fighter pilot", which you can scale from individual to group leader fairly easily, I suspect.
 

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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
OK, just thinking here, and in D&D/PF terms. There was a d20 Adamant Entertainment Corsairs supplement that had sailing ship and ship combat rules that had a "character sheet" for the ship that included BAB, AC, speed and maneuverability, plus it acquire feats to grant improvements. The training of its crew gave it bonuses and penalties, plus a difference between capabilities of a skeleton crew versus a fully manned crew. So what if we extend that concept. Treat the ship as a party member.

With the feat "combat pilot" any player can apply existing ranged weapon specializations, and ranged feats like multi-shot, shot on the run, etc., can be applied to starship weapons with bonuses to BAB and capability. Perhaps any defensive feats can applied to a ship's defenses (AC). Any ranged combatant qualifying class can apply their ranged abilities to a starship - fighters, rangers, zen archer monks, slayers, etc.

Casters or Santiago setting based classes using "technical procedures (spells as tech)" could apply buff spells to a ship like it is a party member, thus improvements to initiative, speed, maneuverability, AC, DR, SR, energy resistances, haste, etc. directly on the ship. Perhaps a feat called "starship engineering", would allow spellcasters to apply buff spells to a starship (perhaps debuffs to opposing ships, as well) to represent this concept. Perhaps healing spells can be applied to the starship's HP - for that matter, what about restoration and resurrection spells...?

So as long as any class takes a feat applying to a bridge officer's position, they can use any existing class features, feats and spells applied to the starship instead of themselves thus interactively participating in starship combat, without having to overly specialize in dedicated feats to do so (just one feat). In this way the ship becomes a composite character derived from the abilities of its entire bridge, plus its own base abilities and stats. This would be a mini-game that would require little change to existing classes and mechanics to accomplish.

Thoughts?
 
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TGryph

Explorer
Game that would handle a Starship Bridge - i dont mean with tactical combat with ship minis, i mean rules that help give the feel of being on a bridge with the helmsman, tactical officer, captain etc. all doing their part.

Heh. A friend saw this post and asked me to repost my setup on our old FASA Star Trek Game...

Keep in mind this was well over 20 years ago (yes I am old). We were using the FASA rules, so circa 1983. We gamed in my friend's basement in Michigan, so we could more or less leave things set up as we needed them.

We had chairs set up around tables so as to approximate the bridge stations on the Enterprise...I mean Excaliber. Each week we would bring our computers to the game and hook them up beforehand.

As I mentioned, I ran the Science Officer. The Science Station on the Excaliber was run by a Commodore 64, rigged with a database program containing everything I needed for the week's game. Whenever I (as GM ) needed to alert the captain to a fact, I punched it up on my screen and showed it to him, or read it as Science Officer. I was into programming a bit, so I would include charts and graphs, making it look as Star-Trek as I could.

The Engineering Station was also run on a Commodore 64. Primarily used in combat, it had a nice Bar Chart for each station. In the FASA Game an Engineer's job was to allocate the ship's available power to each station to power weapons, shields, etc. Each station was also represented as bar graph. The little program we designed would (a the Engineer's command) allocate whatever power points he desired, then deduct it from the Total Power Bar. In the game, the Engineer could make a Engineering Skill Roll to squeeze a little more power from the Engines. The program also performed this role.

The Navigator was in charge of the Shields. I believe he ran a Vic-20, but all it had to do was show a simple diagram of the ship, with the power each shield had allocated to it. If the ship was hit, he deducted the amount from the shield. It also made his Skill Roll for Shield Efficiency.

Communications did not have a computer, but a tape recorder. The Communications Officer was an NPC, so I would operate the tape for incoming messages.

But Helm...ah the Helm Station was a marvel. My friend had a TI-994A...an old Texas Instruments computer that actually had some pretty good graphics capabilities. My friend (even geekier than ME) programmed several enemy ship silhouettes that would appear on the TV screen we used as the Main Viewscreen. During battle, he had his Helmsmen Skill rolls programmed into the computer, so when ever the Captain ordered the phasers fired, little beams would actually streak towards the ship on the screen. If he made his programmed roll, the screen would flash red. If he missed...nothing. He did the same thing for photon torpedoes.

As I said earlier, we I only ran the game for a summer. Due to family.job constraints, we had to choose between that game and my D&D game I also ran for them. We all chose the D&D game, and put away the PC's.

As a side note, I ran D&D for that group of guys for 25 years before I moved from Michigan to North Carolina. I have a great group now, but you just couldn't beat those guys.

TGryph
 

Anthony Lowe

First Post
So I thought a lot about this problem, and here's what I came up with. This system assumes and Enterprise sized ship where most of the actual work is done by the crew, and the PCs are just giving the orders.

I came up with a list of 30 actions that might be attempted on the bridge; Fire weapons, Scan the enemy vessel, Inspire the crew, etc.

I divided the actions into the skills they would require; Social, Piloting, Computers, Mechanics, Tactics.

I gave each action an action cost (Hailing a ship costs 1 action, Firing weapons costs 2, Jumping to warp requires 9 etc.

I decided that each player gets 3 actions per round, and that any player can perform any action by making the appropriate skill check and paying the action cost.

Now when players are in a bridge battle it becomes a group discussion about prioritizing what needs to be done most, and who should do it.
No one is bored because the biggest resource are the action points each player gets, and they all get the same amount.
You don't need X number of players to fill X number of roles, but the more players present, the more actions can be taken.
Players can still shine in bridge battle if they want to devote feats and skill points into ship combat.
 

MarkB

Legend
I gave each action an action cost (Hailing a ship costs 1 action, Firing weapons costs 2, Jumping to warp requires 9 etc.

I decided that each player gets 3 actions per round, and that any player can perform any action by making the appropriate skill check and paying the action cost.

The major downside I can see with such a system is that there seems to be nothing to prevent players from spamming the same action over and over again. For instance, if each of a group of six players chooses the "fire the weapons" option, even if some of them have lower chances to hit, they're likely to saturation-bomb an opponent into oblivion in the first round.
 

Anthony Lowe

First Post
The major downside I can see with such a system is that there seems to be nothing to prevent players from spamming the same action over and over again. For instance, if each of a group of six players chooses the "fire the weapons" option, even if some of them have lower chances to hit, they're likely to saturation-bomb an opponent into oblivion in the first round.

Yeah, I see your point. I am still working on the system. One option would be that certain actions can only be taken once per round. On the other hand, the enemy ship could do the same thing. So the PCs might want to spend some actions on bolstering their shields or taking evasive maneuvers. I tend to play with a group consisting of 2-5 players so I think for my group this might be less of a problem then say a group with 4-8 members.


Right now, in order to fire at an opponent, you either have to have a target lock (Requires 3 actions) or maneuver into point blank range (Requires 1 action per range increment). Opponents can break target locks and maneuver out of range so PCs are going to have to spend some actions keeping the lock each turn.

The other thing to think about is the relative HP/Damage ratios. How many attacks can a ship withstand from an opponent before being blown away.
 
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fletch137

Explorer
I don't have any actual play experience with FASA's Star Trek, but the starship simulator game seemed sound to me.

What I do have some experience with, though, is the very enjoyable starship battle system from Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. Like the systems already described, it features characters taking on "bridge station" roles such as pilot, gunner and engineer.

It was a skill-based system where each character could influence the attack and defense of their ship in combat. For example, the gunner would make the attack roll with his specific weapon, but could receive a bonus to his roll if the pilot succeeded at his Increase Accuracy test.

Or the pilot could instead decide to increase the ship's maneuverability to help from being hit by enemy fire. Meanwhile, the engineer was choosing between damage control or perhaps using Stress Analysis on the enemy ship to boost the gunner's damage.

All told, I think it was those options/tactical decisions that kept everyone engaged. I only have this anecdotal story of my own gaming group, but my personal experience is that such a system is very playable and quite a bit of fun.
 

Anthony Lowe

First Post
It was a skill-based system where each character could influence the attack and defense of their ship in combat. For example, the gunner would make the attack roll with his specific weapon, but could receive a bonus to his roll if the pilot succeeded at his Increase Accuracy test.
.
My only problem with this type of system, is a lack of real choices. Having 4 out of 5 players make a binary choice (boost attack or defense) seems a little bland to me.
 

fletch137

Explorer
My only problem with this type of system, is a lack of real choices. Having 4 out of 5 players make a binary choice (boost attack or defense) seems a little bland to me.

I know it's anecdotal, but there was really no problem with my group at the time. It might have worked better because it was done in conjunction with all the other adventuring they did. After exploring and adventuring and blasting things (and even some speculative trade which didn't catch on too much) on the ground, the bridge system on their freighter was a different enough experience to hold their attentions. There wasn't a lot of co-op play planetside, so combining efforts to a single effect might have felt sufficiently unique to be un-bland.

I will also add that gaming back then didn't assume that every character was going to get in a kill shot. Just as our thieves were content to scout lairs and disarm traps with only the occasional backstab, our space medic was content to tend the wounded and identify alien organisms with only the occasional (and unskilled) blast from his missile battery. I suppose now, where rogues are based around their damage output and clerics are changed to heal WHILE they attack, modern players would be less happy with a spacer who wasn't pulling triggers or dodging lasers himself.
 

Wednesday Boy

The Nerd WhoFell to Earth
Riffing off of [MENTION=6747249]Anthony Lowe[/MENTION], maybe some sort of worker placement-like mini game would work with the crew splitting their effort to deal with whatever threat occurs each round. The GM would play situation cards that would have to be dealt with and the crew would have to deal with dodging attacks and damaged systems. The crew could have different special abilities and only affect certain ship systems. Or maybe each crew member would have a ship system that had unique "hit points" that needed to be protected or fixed to keep the system operational. It would tend towards a board game rather than an RPG but might be a way to make the crew game fun.
 

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