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RocketDad

Space Combat...What If I Left It Out?

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...Seriously. The D6 system is fine for space/vehicle combat in Space Opera, Pulp Space, and other settings where the Rule of Cool is more important than the Laws of Physics. For hard sf...honestly, I'm not sure I can manage it. Not without roughly doubling the length of the rulebook.

Another reason I am not thrilled with the idea of making hard sf space combat rules can be summed up in two words: Ken Burnside. Ad Astra Games' Attack Vector: Tactical is the definitive 3D space combat game and has become the gold standard by which all others are measured. Not only am I unsure that I could make something half as good, I don't really want to try. In my SW games back in the day, Space combat was always glossed over or ignored completely. In fact, the reason my wife (one of the best DMs I've ever seen) is loath to play sf games is that space combat does not interest her and most of the characters she wants to play have little to do when the blaster bolts fly in the Black.

This got me thinking...even though I design spacecraft and they are an integral part of my Black Desert setting, do I need to make rules for space combat, with all the hex maps and other nonsense? I started to wonder if I could, maybe, have space combats fought in the Character Scale.

Bear with me. I will explain.

First of all, I have no problem with big space combats; I just never thought they worked well in a character-based RPG. They make for great board games, but in the context of an RPG I feel that they interrupt game flow and take away from the main focus - the Players. It's understandable; after all games like Star Wars wouldn't be complete if you couldn't take an X-Wing into a dogfight with a couple of TIEs. But in a hard sf game, combat in space is dangerous as hell. It's hard to manoeuvre, hard to stop, and you only have a few minute's worth of fuel. If you run out of fuel, you still keep on flying...right out of the Solar System. If you get hit, you're probably done for.

I could do this in The Black Desert, because it is not a visualised setting. There are no movies or television series that I have to pay service to. I can describe space combat as it would truly be; too fast to react to and too deadly to ignore. Think about it, the part where the opposing rockets are in close range of one another is less than one average gaming round. In an eye blink, its all over. Even hard sf usually fudges a little here, as narrating an epic battle like this:

“...the two opposing wings met and passed in less than a second, there was a flash of light, and (roll, roll) you're dead. Good game, everybody!”

Is absolutely no fun for all of the Players whose dead characters didn't get to roll.

In its proper place (like in AT:V), the milder version of Newtonian space combat is really fun. But one of the most frustrating experiences for a Player in an sf RPG campaign that I have observed is, like I said, to have their bad ass character that has almost no skill in pilot or repair, look on helplessly as the ship is blown out from under them and they cannot fight back. So, I thought it would be interesting to make a set of space combat rules that kept the focus of the action inside the spacecraft, where the characters are and give them things to do that have an important impact on their survival.

Now, the quoted example above is lame, this is granted. However, if the focus is on the characters, then preceding that snippet are several dramatic scenes where characters can earn their XP by getting their spacecraft braced for battle. They will be struggling to get everything on their ship ready, optimising the engines and lasers, hoping that if the ship is hit their station is not in the section that decompresses and that kind of stuff.

How is this different from other helpless situations? For one thing, everyone that performs successful actions increase the chances that the ship will survive. For another, since manoeuvrability is not a tactical consideration at these speeds and with these weapons, everyone is helpless.

After the “flash of light”part, the fun really begins. All of the characters will have to struggle in a deadly melee combat with the hazards of space itself. The Pilot will have to try to change vector and find a course that lets them land the rocket before the fuel is used up, The Engineer will have to get the engines back on line, or shut down to prevent a meltdown, and everyone else will be performing Damage Control. You will have disabled systems, decompressed compartments, possible radiation zones, flooding, fires and any other dangerous (and high XP) condition a GM can imagine. Even better, all the desperate running from one disaster to another will be in zero gravity.

Sure, it's not a chasing a squadron of Vulture Droids in and out of Star Destroyer formations, but it will be exciting. And a Player need never depend solely on the skill of the Pilot or the stats of their ship to survive.

If this hasn't painted a sharp enough picture for you, don't worry. As the idea continues to evolve, I'll add details, mechanics, and scenarios from GM and Player perspectives. The main thing I want to know at this stage is: does this sound interesting to you? Do you want to know more? Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for your replies!

 

RocketDad

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Thanks for your meaty post relating to space combat in hard sci-fi games. But for the sake of new visitors to the site that may not have been following your other threads, What If Space Combat is Left Out of what? I suggest you post a link to another thread or a little background about the sci-fi D6 game you are planning on making for reference/context.

 

No, you don't have to have space combat in your game. I personally find it exciting and couldn't imagine it not being in Star Wars. Blowing up TIE Fighters and pirates while avoiding the same fate is fun! I try to work at least a little space combat into almost every adventure.

 

But your game is pointedly not Space Opera. One option is to for it to just not be science-practical so it just doesn't happen. Another is that the tech level has developed enough that it can exist, but the PCs won't be the pilots or gunners, and being on a starship during combat is just a dynamic setting for exciting scenes. And maybe you can have space combat for PCs as a future expansion of your game.

 

I think you have some great ideas and should continue to develope them, and of course share them here with us!

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While I see what you are getting at, Rocketdad, I think the inclusion or exclusion of space combat relies entirely on your intent of the setting. Are space ships just going to be a mode of transport to get between point A and B? If so, then all the detail of the space ships probably isn't necessary. RPing the long stretches of time between the origin and the destination could be tedious for all but the most die-hard "character" role players. Making the ships mere transports to get people from one place to another is great if you want all of your action to take place planetside or stationside. At the same time, though, don't put much work into the ship details as they're the equivalent of your car.

Now if you want the ship stats and layouts to have meaning, and use beyond simple transport, then you'll need to include some sort of combat mechanics. The detail that you decide to put into it will really depend on how much work you want to do and how "hard" you want your hard science fiction game to be. All of the stuff that you described about things for others to do besides the pilot are things that are pretty much mandatory for every GM to learn for games. Including this very same aspect in Star Wars is a sure way to make sure that everyone on the ship has something to do when combat begins. Don't just give the pilot or a gunner something to do. Give others something to do too.

 

Also, the detail is entirely up to you when it comes to combat. Truth be told, I would NEVER use hexes and minis and charts and such for a starship combat in an RPG. I go with description. I make combat move quickly, presenting things to the players to respond to in a prompt manner rather than meticulously studying a hex map to figure out the best way to maneuver. Things move quick in combat, snap decisions need to be made, not maps studied and precises distances measured out. That's more meta-gaming than it is RPing and it certainly doesn't capture the feel of what combat is: fast, hectic, and frightening.

 

So if you're going to come up with suggestions for non-pilot and non-gunner people to do when combat starts, I think that's a great idea. If you're going to make a quasi-realistic space combat system that can still reflect the quickness and not bog down with meticulous bookkeeping to determine movement and range and bearing, ad nauseum...then I say GO FOR IT! If you're going to dispense with combat for the sheer sake of the players who don't like combat or for the GMs who can't wrap their minds around things for the non-pilot players to do, then you might end up shooting yourself in the foot with the details of your space ships. So decide based on your setting, what you want to accomplish with it, and how much work you want to put into it.

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After reading your post, Grimace, I believe that we are in Violent Agreement. I say this because I totally see your point...I'm not sure, however, that I made mine. Looking back, I guess I didn't. My mistake. I did not want realistic space combat in the sense of rules detailed enough to require 30-minute rounds and such. I run combat in a similar way that you do. My essential point (if I can make it, it's been a long day) is that I want my combat system for space to be centred on the characters. Pilots still pilot, Engineers still engineer, and Gunners still blow the crap out of stuff that takes damage that must be tracked. But rather than describe the scene in terms of what's going on outside the characters rocket, I propose keeping the focus inside where the characters. This is more realistic, if your into that, because plausible space combat scenarios never involve direct visual sighting of opposing spacecraft- it's too dangerous and too fast. and. SF spaceship combat is the only type of game I play on a regular basis that does this; even the most elaborate mass combat in a fantasy campaign involves the character's attacking and taking damage on a personal level.

 

I want to keep spacecraft combat as personal and engaging as a punch in the nose or a knife in the back. So, Build tension during approach, make preparations, maneuver, shoot and launch missiles and countermeasures. Have the brief clash, and then fight against the damage.

 

In my blog, I have an entire series on designing spacecraft for hard sf RPGs. I believe that the main functions of a spacecraft (at least for Black Desert) are transportation which you covered above, treasure which is obvious-if its unclaimed after the crew are defeated, the PCs will take that rocket with them, and, most important to this thread, an adventure location.

 

This is where I want to put my emphasis. I want to capture the appeal of dungeon crawling in a sf setting. Usually, sf dungeon crawls involve boarding actions and jail breaks and such. I equate these to "dungeons with monsters" There is also the exploration of wrecks and derelicts, which I call "dungeons with traps". Then there is also conventional space combat. What I want to do is make space combat a variation on the "dungeons with traps". When a rocket takes damage, and systems fail, compartments de-pressurize, and all those lovely fun things, the space combat becomes a dungeon crawl and makes multiple encounters out of a single pass in space. Which, realistically, is how plausible space combat would work.

 

I know most rules systems allow for this sort of thing, but I really want to try to make it the emphasis. I suppose my original statement is off - there is indeed space combat, its just the GM will focus on describing what goes on inside the rocket instead of outside.

 

I hope that makes better sense. Thanks again for posting!

Edited by RocketDad

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Rocket, I think the analogy you are looking for is submarine warfare. Star Wars has been described as more aerial dogfighting. (and in fact, Lucas used old WWI war movies as a reference for his starfighter scenes.)

 

But I think you're looking for submarine warfare. Combat is non-visual. Computers and scopes are the characters eyes and ears. Star Trek did a great job of capturing this feel during Kirk's final battle against Khan in the Mutara Nebula in Star Trek II.

 

Other classic movies that capture this feel include: "Run Silent, Run Deep", "The Hunt for Red October" and "Das Boot."

 

Very different feel than the clash of wings. Submarine warfare is all about tension and suspense. "Where is the enemy?" "Is that blip on the radar right?" "Is the computer malfunctioning? Do we trust it or not?" "Fire torpedoes and wait in agony while the fish hopefully tracks to the target." and if you get hit, then the crew rushes around frantically doing damage control and hope they remain undetected.

 

I hope that helps.

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I would NEVER use hexes and minis and charts and such for a starship combat in an RPG. I go with description. I make combat move quickly, presenting things to the players to respond to in a prompt manner rather than meticulously studying a hex map to figure out the best way to maneuver. Things move quick in combat, snap decisions need to be made, not maps studied and precises distances measured out. That's more meta-gaming than it is RPing and it certainly doesn't capture the feel of what combat is: fast, hectic, and frightening.

 

I meant to also express this sentiment but forgot while typing my inititial reply. Thanks, Grimace. Great minds think alike. (Or is it, "Great minds think like Grimace"?)

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Definately think like Grimace, since he said what I was trying to say in less space with more sense. And you're write, I totally should have mentioned that I am working on a specific project and not just hypotheticals. So there's the link, and here's the one to my blog. Any one who wants to watch me develop a Hard SF campaign setting can follow along. Seriously, come on, its fun.... :)

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Hey, Whill and Grimace:

 

I made a cleaned up version of my initial post and put it on my blog. Please check it out. If it seems to get my point across better, I'll replace my initial post with the new one.

Thanks for keeping a eye on me!

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You're definitely getting into the "hard cider" aspect that you referred to. Just be careful you don't make it so close to reality that it loses all fun for other gamers.

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Really looks to me to be rather unpalatable a situation.

 

It's a readily visualized situation, and while it's not look out the windows, detection is not an issue unless fighting "in terrain" (around a planet, star, or in or around a ring, or belt), simply due to TANSIS ("There Ain't No Stealth In Space").

 

A couple small technical issues, too:

1) since you seem to be presuming a low constant thrust for ships, and a relatively high constant for missiles, any intercept of missiles at range results in a miss except in a strict head-on approach. Their debris simply passes behind you.

2) the plasma drive isn't going to be terribly good at melting things; the density at contact will be rather low, and still results in encountering the kinetic force of the objects.

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Really looks to me to be rather unpalatable a situation.

 

It's a readily visualized situation, and while it's not look out the windows, detection is not an issue unless fighting "in terrain" (around a planet, star, or in or around a ring, or belt), simply due to TANSIS ("There Ain't No Stealth In Space").

 

I disagree. It's actually very tough to spot things in space, even with powerful telescopes and sensors. The thing is, right now all spacecraft are designed to be easily detected. They're blasting out all kinds of radio waves, heat signatures, and reflective paint.

 

Just like early submarine designs, before warfighters determined that stealth was the key to winning the undersea war. So what did they do? All engineering went into: How do we reduce the noise? How do we not give away our position, but still detect others? How can I make like a hole in the water?

 

I could totally see the same thing happening in realistic future space warfare. Coast along, just make minor course corrections with as little energy signature as possible... observe radio silence... paint the exterior black with low reflective (low albedo) paint. Use every trick in the book at deception. Just like modern submarine warfare.

 

Now, with that said. if you DO get detected... see the scenario above with lots of death and wrenched metal. :cool:

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@ aramis

 

Welcome to the Forum! It's nice to see another Hard SF fan getting into D6.

 

To respond:

1)Only the IPVs enjoy constant boost. The rockets in the animation are all good, old fashioned, blast-coast-blast jobs accelerating at 1g for 150 seconds (25 rounds), flipping, and then hitting the Torch to deliver 5g for about thirty seconds (5 rounds). The Missiles do about 3 or 4gs and are staged so they can run down the larger rockets. The spent stages explode into debris to further fill the space with obstacles.

 

2) There is no "plasma drive". The Plasma sails are a species of Mini-Magnetospheric Plasma Propulsion. These are thought to be able to deflect both radiation and low density kinetics, since they are being designed to protect future spacecraft from cosmic rays and space debris. That's why lasers, nukes, and kinetics below a certain tonnage are ineffective against IPVs.

The Fusion Torches are just that, "Ye Olde Schoole Fusion Drives". While the Torches' exhaust begins to diffuse after only a little while, ten-million-degree radioactive hydrogen still teaches an effective lesson. And yes, any use of plasma in vacuum and free-fall is pretty much useless unless you plan on going to the dark side. :D

 

SO to recap:

 

IPVs: (Magnetic) Plasma sails = low constant thrust and high protection against conventional weapons. Vulnerable to Fusion Torches.

Rockets: High thrust, low Delta V, vulnerable to lasers and kinetics, but big enough to carry anti-rocket missiles for space superiority and Fusion Torches that can Zap the IPVs.

Missiles: High thrust, High Delta V, Hard to hit. Main purpose is to stop rockets from reaching the IPVs. Laser Missiles get in close and start zapping, Kinetic Missiles explode into debris clouds when their propellant runs dry and cross the rockets' attack vector like a medieval arrow storm.

 

There is no where to run (not enough Delta V), nowhere to hide (TANSIS), and at these speeds, no way to dodge. That's why all rockets are unmanned except the essential Command and Control craft, and the crew is very, very, skilled at damage control.

 

Sounds fun, dun'nit?

 

Hope that clears things up. any other issues, questions or whatever, don't hesitate to ask.

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SO to recap:

 

IPVs: (Magnetic) Plasma sails = low constant thrust and high protection against conventional weapons. Vulnerable to Fusion Torches.

Rockets: High thrust, low Delta V, vulnerable to lasers and kinetics, but big enough to carry anti-rocket missiles for space superiority and Fusion Torches that can Zap the IPVs.

Missiles: High thrust, High Delta V, Hard to hit. Main purpose is to stop rockets from reaching the IPVs. Laser Missiles get in close and start zapping, Kinetic Missiles explode into debris clouds when their propellant runs dry and cross the rockets' attack vector like a medieval arrow storm.

 

There is no where to run (not enough Delta V), nowhere to hide (TANSIS), and at these speeds, no way to dodge. That's why all rockets are unmanned except the essential Command and Control craft, and the crew is very, very, skilled at damage control.

 

Sounds fun, dun'nit?

 

Hope that clears things up. any other issues, questions or whatever, don't hesitate to ask.

 

RocketDad,

Is this considered the "worst-case scenario" for zero-gee combat? In the scenario you set up, the enemies are approaching head-on, so they have the highest relative approach speeds. What about situations where one combatant is trying to overtake the other? or is on an oblique intercept course ("Capping the T" in naval terms)?

 

Kinetic kill weapons could potentially lose much of their destructive capability when their velocity relative to the target is small. If plasma trails and radioactive clouds never cross the target vessels course, they are effectively useless.

 

Just some random thoughts I had.

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Yes, this pretty much a worse case scenario. I used this example on my blog for the bebefit of those who have not really studies the physics of maneuvering in vacuum. As exciting as movie space combat is, it is usually the most inaccurate depictions of movement in space possible

 

Overtaking is very difficult for IPVs because of their crappy thrust. They can launch Rockets, but with a Delta V that allows thrust for only a couple of minutes, this is risky. If an IPV is attacking an asteroid, they must of course deccelerate first and would have started slowing down days or even weeks earlier.

 

You are absolutly right about the kinetics; that is why, in the above scenario, they are launched before any other attack is made. You'll also notice that they cross the attacking rockets' vector; this is to insure they arrive at the right place at the right time, and to hit the attacking Wing in their broadsides, where the blast of the Fusion Torches will do little good. The best defence would be to position drones between the command and control rocket and the vector of the debris cloud. Of course, spalling will produce secondary debris clouds, but with much less kinetic energy.

 

It all depends on position, speeds and other variables; for the core book, I will include a couple of the most likely scenarios for PC parties in a single spacecraft. Later, I will most likely make an additional supplement for space combat with the big ships and fleet actions.

Edited by RocketDad

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I disagree. It's actually very tough to spot things in space, even with powerful telescopes and sensors. The thing is, right now all spacecraft are designed to be easily detected. They're blasting out all kinds of radio waves, heat signatures, and reflective paint.

 

....Snip...

 

Coast along, just make minor course corrections with as little energy signature as possible... observe radio silence... paint the exterior black with low reflective (low albedo) paint. Use every trick in the book at deception. Just like modern submarine warfare.

 

Now, with that said. if you DO get detected... see the scenario above with lots of death and wrenched metal. :cool:

 

Sadly, this turns out not to be the case.

 

http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/spacewardetect.php

 

Very very short form:

 

Anything with humans on it is going to require a life support section. That life support section is going to need to be about 296 K for room temperature, and will conduct heat to the hull. That conducted heat will be around 275 to 250 K.

 

Background of space is 5K.

 

It gets worse if you have onboard power generation. Unlike working in an atmosphere, or in water, there's no conducting medium to pull waste heat from your ship via convection, which means that the thermodynamics breaks down to either needing very large (and massive) radiators, or very small (and very HOT radiators). Bolzmann's law makes it abundantly clear that small-and-hot is vastly more efficient (radiator efficiency goes up at the fourth power of temperature).

 

Any kind of drive that allows you to make reasonable course corrections at all - something that produces thrust in the tens to hundred of milligees range - is going to put out several megawatts of thermal energy to be detected, and will generally take several HOURS to build up a reasonable velocity.

 

I design space combat games for a living; one of the (Attack Vector: Tactical) has several fans at NASA and US SpaceCom.

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In D6 Dramatics, which was originally written for the Honorverse RPG project, I quickly came to the conclusion that space combat ha about as much place in an RPG as dead baby jokes do at a wedding reception.

 

My solution was to give both sides a set of abstract stakes (effectively, character points), with the PCs having a Focal Point character and everyone else being supporting cast.

 

It becomes a series of scenes:

 

First, the Big Briefing Scene - players discuss, in character, what they need to achieve.

 

GM sets up the action. On each exchange, the PCs and the GM roll dice. The players have a limited number of resources worth extra dice.

 

In D6 Dramatics, if you lose the contest, you describe what bad things happened. This is very important.

 

If the Focal Point PC loses the exchange, she describes what happens to her ship - and they lose one of the stake tokens. She knows where the other PCs are on the ship. So, it's in her best interest to describe something happening that the OTHER players can fix. (It's also in her best interest to spread out the spotlight time). That PC describes how they're fixing the problem she's presented to them and makes a skill roll; if they succeed, the stake token isn't lost. Each time a given PC is called upon to 'do their duty', they do so at a cumulative -1D penalty. (There are also some bonuses for heroic sacrifices, and 'character growth through seeing people you supervise die'.)

 

It is a very good idea, during the 'staff meeting' scene for everyone to give the Focal Point PC a list of "cool things I'd like to do when I have the spotlight", so the Focal Point PC's player has a checklist of what to do.

 

If the focal point PC wins the exchange, the Bad Guys lose a token. When the bad guys run out of tokens, the PCs win. The Bad Guys do NOT have Supporting Cast in the combat sequence, so they will eventually lose....and everyone gets a chance to Do Something Cool.

 

Note that this works for nearly every kind of mass combat or Big Damned Resolution Scene.

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I've never been a big fan of space combat. It's like romance plotlines; great for movies, but not easy to make it work in pen and paper rpg's. Even when you do get it to work, the end result is nothing like the movies.

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Take a page out of naval battles of the 1600s:

Holing a ship isn't instantly lethal, for one.

It'll slow down a ship maybe instead, just enough to come alongside...

 

Secondly, boarding parties should be a necessary part of ship-to-ship warfare.

Insanely large cannons are slow and only good for planetary bombardment, not at all suitable for space combat.

So instead, one must fight "in the rigging" as it were.

 

Electro-swords and space-Monarchies are cool anyway.

 

Plus turning a space battle into a land battle on the ship's deck certainly resolves the issue of the ugliness of the space battles.

 

I've gone this direction quite often.

In my GURPS games, even.

It just puts the hero(es) back into the action better than anything else I've thought up.

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First of all, great post, and great replies. Being a physics guy, I especially appreciate the post by Ad Astra regarding heat radiation and so forth.

 

I will also say that I have always been largely dissatisfied with the starship combat rules as published in the Star Wars RPGs. The Star Wars RPG 1st edition had a highly simplified system of space and vehicular combat that personally never felt realistic to me, but would be appropriate for session without too much emphasis on ship to ship combat. Perhaps you might want to look into that rule system.

 

2nd Edition and 2nd Edition Revised made an attempt at a more realistic system, but was inherently flawed in many ways as well. In my opinion, they simply made gameplay more complicated without really adding any realism.

 

If you have a copy of the WEG Star Wars: Rebel Alliance Sourcebook, there is a section that details certain maneuvers a pilot can attempt, and what the character would achieve through successful completion of the maneuver. I liked this because it was simple enough, but added more flavor than the 1st edition starship combat rules.

 

I never fully succeeded in tailoring my own system that I was satisfied with, but perhaps someday!

 

As previously mentioned in other posts, it also depends on what type of starship combat you are talking about (capital ships, or fighter craft), and also how much knowledge the GM has of aviation and zero g, zero atmosphere physics.

 

One problem with a hypothetically created, playable system (without the mathematical drudgery) that was 100% accurate in the realm of real-world physics is that playing a starship combat scenario would reflect the Player's knowledge of physics and piloting, rather than the Character's skill. In other words, players generally have zero knowledge of how to pilot any form of spacecraft, yet they are playing characters that are supposed to have at least rudimentary training in the field. Players utilizing such a rule system would make "beginner" piloting mistakes that their Characters should already know to avoid.

 

For the sake of a role playing game, rather than a air/space craft combat simulation, a more simplified approach would work better that might revolve around a few manuevers, gunnery rolls, focusing one what the Player Character party is trying to achieve, rather than a drawn out battle.

 

One last thought unrelated to the last paragraph, one thing that is lacking in most starship combat rules is Newton's Law that objects in motion, tend to stay in motion until acted upon. One feature of the 2nd edition starship rules is the limitation of space craft to a 4x movement. In physics, aside from the Speed of Light (aka c), there is no limit to physical motion. In evasion, a ship will ALWAYS get away from a ship that is slower than it. However in the opposite case, with skilled piloting and tricky maneuvers a la Han Solo, it is possible for a slower ship to evade a faster ship...for a while any way. I often shorten a chase sequence in such a way.

 

So I went a little bit all over the map on this one, but I am interested in others' input and experience.

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Personally, I thought the standard SW 2nd Edition rules worked fine for delivering epic, cinematic space battles, especially after the revised rules came out -- provided you ran them properly. The player characters had specific and narrow objectives within the battle, and you didn't need to roll for every ship in the background, just for what directly affected the players.

 

The movies did it the same way. Consider the opening scene of Revenge of the Sith: there's a battle raging on, but Anakin and Obi-Wan are occupied only with their own narrow objectives. The battle is background - all the GM has to worry about is the character's role in it. The encounter with the buzzdroids, boarding the command ship, and so on. If you were running that scene in a game, you could spend all day simulating every minute detail of the battle, and run out of time before the players can even rescue the chancellor. Or you could treat the battle as a backdrop and not simulate it at all except in very broad terms, and focus on your characters.

 

 

In terms of RocketDad's original post, whether space combat is even necessary or feasible in a realistic setting: you know your players and what kind of game is going to work with your group. I can see how traditional space combat might be a challenge in a realistic setting, especially in terms of making it playable.

 

I think my problem with that idea is that no matter how diffucult it might be, people will inevitably find ways to fight in space. It's simply not plausible that there would be no combat at all - people fight over the pettiest things, and some of them would be staying awake nights trying to think up ways to attack. I think Rerun's idea has a lot of merit - make it about tension and uncertainty, planning out the attack then waiting with white knuckles for the missiles to drop. A cat and mouse chess game in space.

 

Edit: RocketDad's animated GIF reminds me a bit of a samurai scene in space. The two samurai face off, posture for a while, then run screaming at each other. As they pass they each launch attacks - then they both fall down dead. ;)

Edited by Wester

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I ran a short space combat sequence for Star Wars D6 (2nd and Revised) at a convention this weekend, and it was actually not too bad.

 

I used a hex board and ship markers, bearing in mind that it was meant more as a visual aid than a precise representation of 3D space.

 

The situation: Fugitives of the Empire have broken out of an Imperial prison and have just broken the atmosphere in a Sentinel Class Shuttle (stolen of course!) and must make it 50 space units before jumping into hyperspace. Unfortunately 2 TIE fighters start moving in to intercept!

 

Since the shuttle is a 2 pilot/3 gunner crew ship, two of the characters were co-pilots, and one character was acting as gunner (so sad, only had 3 players =/). One of the pilots was also operating shields, while the gunner operated sensors.

 

Instead of Perception, Sensor skill rolls were made (free action).

 

In the first round, the stolen shuttle (MOVE 7) was accelerating by two movement levels to a velocity of 14. (NOTE* House rule variant: Instead of cruising, high speed, all out, etc. I think of the move as throttle, where the base move is 1/4 throttle, and full throttle is 4x the move rate. The throttle can be increased 2 levels per round, but velocity is cumulative per Newtonian physics).

 

The primary pilot is pointing the ship away from the TIEs, rolling piloting successfully. His intention is to get to hyperspace as quick as possible and would be able to do this in 3 rounds at current acceleration (half throttle = 14 first round, + 28 full throttle 2nd round, + 56 full throttle velocity on the 3rd round...).

 

The shield operator tries as a second action to raise shield on the rear quadrant, but roll's a '1' on the wild die- he's not familiar with Imperial controls so he can't get the shields up.

 

The gunner fires and hits a TIE with a "6" on the wild die - kabloooooeey!!!

 

Before going in a ball of flame, both TIEs are able to fire. Hits are inconclusive.

 

2nd Round

Because of the acceleration factor, piloting is Very Difficult, and the pilot fails the roll. There is nothing to hit in open space, so I judge that he too is unfamiliar with the Imperial craft's handling and over compensates maneuvering in zero-g, zero-atmo space and begins heading back to the planet again.

 

The co-pilot rolls for shields again, and gets a "1" on the wild die AGAIN! He hits the wrong button and accidentally lowers the particle shields as well: -2D to hull.

 

The gunner fires and misses the TIE. The TIE returns fire... it was a direct hit to the shieldless shuttle. Consulting the damage table, the primary engines are knocked out and the ship is adrift. I judge that since it was still in the planet's gravity well, the ship enters into a decaying orbit.

 

3rd Round

 

The pilot jumps from his dead stick to try and repair the engines, rolls and no such luck this round.

 

The co-pilot manages to activate the shields with a "6" on the wild die. I judge that not only do the shields come back up, but because they were storing energy in shield capacitors during the previous 2 rounds, the ship gets double its shield strength for this round only.

 

The gunner fires and hits the 2nd TIE. After rolling for damage normally, the TIE is destroyed (the game mechanics really translated the movie well in this instance). It does manage a parting shot and hits, but there's no damage due to the fortified shields.

 

Now technically the combat portion is over, but the ship is not out of danger as it is in a decaying orbit.

 

The co-pilot uses his command skill to co-ordinate the efforts of the pilot and co-pilot.

 

Now I don't remember how exactly the command skill works, but the way I used it, is if successful, all characters combining their actions combine the total of their dice rolls. Otherwise, only the highest roll is used if the command skill attempt fails.

 

In this instance, the command skill is successful, the pilot and gunner roll really well (think someone got a 6 on the wild die), so the engines come back to life, the ship is safe, and they hyperspace outta there.

 

I hope this example helps anyone out that might be having trouble running space combat. I don't believe I really adhered strictly to either rule set for space combat in any of the Star Wars/D6 Space books, but I used what I knew, and fudged the rest for whatever made sense.

 

The result was a satisfying space combat sequence for the players and I, with a lot of intense drama!

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