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Should Pilot(Space) really be an Agi Skill?


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#1 LethalDose

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 08:36 AM

 This is something that has been bugging me.  Pilot(Space) is the skill used to pilot starships of all shapes and sizes, from TIE's to tramp freighters, to Mon Cal star cruisers.  The devs decided that flying starships was substantially different enough from flying speeders that it required a separate skill.  And I agree with that.  But if it is that different, should we still be using the same attribute for both skills?

The crux of this problem, for me, is that I don't find hand-eye and full body coordination abilities (represented by the Agi attribute) are as relevant to piloting in space as are spatial perception, the ability to interact with the complex controls and feedback stimuli, and the ability to out-smart your opponent.  These latter qualities seem to fit better with the Cunning statistic that has been added to the game.  

I think Cunning (or even intelligence) is particularly more important than Agility for piloting capital ships.  But, Cunning is also important for flying space transports (e.g. the Falcon) or dogfighting starfighters.  I think that Stay on Target, Evasive Maneuvers, and Gain the Advantage would work well, flavor-wise, to use the Cunning attribute as well.

This would also help break Agi away from being such a "king" statistic in ranged and vehicular combat, which I think is a bit of a problem.

Probably gonna get a lot of disagreement/hate on this, but really felt I needed to voice an opinion on the topic in case anyone else out there was thinking the same thing.

 

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#2 Kallabecca

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 08:56 AM

For anything up to about Tramp Freighter size (YT1300, Slave I, etc…) I see agility as the linked attribute as they fly like WWII fighters. Capital ships don't have a single pilot. I think that one should be a separate skill. Command/Knowledge (Tactics) for the bridge officer on duty and some other skill (maybe your recommendation of Pilot/Cunning).



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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:06 PM

I like Agility. 

To an extent, I could see there being three skills involved in flying a fighter - Flying with Agility, Shooting with whatever Perception is called and Tactics with Cunning.

(I was reading a book about Air Combat*, and it suggested that great fighter pilots tend to be short, mean spirited men with exceptional eyesight. I get the impression that being short and mean gave you the required aggression. And as we all know, the Red Baron was a mediocre pilot, but a very good shot.)

http://www.amazon.co.../dp/0870210599/ This is apparently the bible for such things



#4 EldritchFire

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:36 PM

 Reading the description of Cunning, I agree. I mean, just look at the adjectives used: creative, crafty, savvy; able to come up with short-term plans and tactics. Flying fighter, transports, and capital ships aren't about bodily coordination (reaction speeds), its about mental coordination (pro action speeds).

I understand why it's an Ag skill, because piloting has always been a Dex/Agi/Coordination/Etc skill—except in WEG Star Wars, wher piloting was under the Mechanical attribute, which was the vehicle usage attribute. But since FFG is doing all this cool new stuff with their SW game, they should seriously think about why skills are linked to certain characteristics, and if there is a better choice.

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#5 LethalDose

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:57 PM

 EldritchFire gets its.

Thx man.


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#6 ItsUncertainWho

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 04:28 PM

AluminiumWolf said:

(I was reading a book about Air Combat*, and it suggested that great fighter pilots tend to be short, mean spirited men with exceptional eyesight. I get the impression that being short and mean gave you the required aggression. And as we all know, the Red Baron was a mediocre pilot, but a very good shot.)

http://www.amazon.co.../dp/0870210599/ This is apparently the bible for such things

They like short pilots because the distance from heart to brain is smaller, therefore travel time and distance for blood, from heart to brain, is shorter. It means you can take higher G-forces without passing out. It's the same reason women make good pilots, they just usually don't have enough muscle development when compared to men.



#7 Slaunyeh

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 10:41 PM

I quite like the idea of using Cunning for Pilot (space). While Agility makes sense for fighter pilots, it really doesn't make sense for larger ships. Cunning would be a great compromise, as long as we maintain one skill for all space-faring ships.



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Posted 23 September 2012 - 11:12 PM

ItsUncertainWho said:

They like short pilots because the distance from heart to brain is smaller, therefore travel time and distance for blood, from heart to brain, is shorter. It means you can take higher G-forces without passing out.

 

The book was definitely implying that having a severe case of Short Man Syndrome was a common feature of good fighter pilots.

--

This is the helm of a Seawolf class nuclear attack submarine:-

I still like the idea of actually flying a big ship being tied to agility. Parking something the size of a supercarrier is still the same as parking a car - you just need grace rather than speed.

I am kind of thinking of this- 

 (assassins creed 3 naval warfare - also Star Trek Bridge Commander)

No matter how big the ship, you still want a guy at the wheel with a light touch.

--

(Totally incidentally, here is a view of the control columns on the Falcon, on the grounds that I never noticed them and others might not have either:-

 )



#9 Donovan Morningfire

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 12:28 AM

I disagree, and think that Pilot (Space) should be an Agility skill, at least for craft that are operated by a single pilot or a pilot/co-pilot combo.

Going by the movies, starfighters are pretty much treated our real-world fighter planes, specifically WW2 dogfighting as Kallabecca noted.

Cunning is great for coming up with plans on the fly, but you need fast reaction times (Agility) to put those plans into motion before the other guy blows you out of the sky.

Now, that said, I could certainly see a caveat that when it comes to the larger ships (Star Destroyers, Mon Cal Cruisers, bulk freighters, etc) that require multiple people to steer, then it could be Cunning rather than Agility, since it's less about reaction time and more about coordinating the efforts of several (or dozens) of people at once.


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#10 OB-1

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 04:22 AM

Donovan Morningfire said:

I disagree, and think that Pilot (Space) should be an Agility skill, at least for craft that are operated by a single pilot or a pilot/co-pilot combo.

Going by the movies, starfighters are pretty much treated our real-world fighter planes, specifically WW2 dogfighting as Kallabecca noted.

Cunning is great for coming up with plans on the fly, but you need fast reaction times (Agility) to put those plans into motion before the other guy blows you out of the sky.

Now, that said, I could certainly see a caveat that when it comes to the larger ships (Star Destroyers, Mon Cal Cruisers, bulk freighters, etc) that require multiple people to steer, then it could be Cunning rather than Agility, since it's less about reaction time and more about coordinating the efforts of several (or dozens) of people at once.

I agree with all of this.


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#11 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 04:45 AM

There is a persistent myth in the RPG community that being a good gymnast makes you a good marksman/boxer/swordsman/driver/pilot/pickpocket/locksmith. I don't see it going away anytime soon. 


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#12 OB-1

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 05:23 AM

 

The fist RPG I encountered, read, played and gamemastered was called DragonQuest, from SPI.

Amongst the primary characteristics of said old game there were two named Agility and Manual Dexterity.

I've read and played dozens of games since. So, I, at least, don't find myself a victim of such a persistent myth.

That said, I don't really think Cunning should replace Agility in freighter chases and dogfights, in this game.


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#13 Donovan Morningfire

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 05:58 AM

Doc, the Weasel said:

There is a persistent myth in the RPG community that being a good gymnast makes you a good marksman/boxer/swordsman/driver/pilot/pickpocket/locksmith. I don't see it going away anytime soon. 

That's probably more for a sake of simplicity/expediency from a game design perspective.  After all, why have two or three separate stats that have moderate areas of overlap when you can have just the one that covers both and make one less thing the player has to track/worry about?  The majority of those things you mentioned have a strong reliance on coordination and dexterity at their root (Characteristic), with the person's particularly training and experience (Skills) setting them apart.


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#14 Exalted5

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 12:51 PM

I get the argument, and it makes sense… But by extension you could argue that ranged weapons might be an int skill (calculating angles, range, trajectory, etc) or that me lee should be agility and not brawn.

At the end of the day, I think it makes the most people happy being an agility skill; flying through the death star trench, navigating an asteroid field, or avoiding incoming fire all require as much of a steady hand as a clever plan.

However - what about a talent somewhere that allows a PC to use cunning instead of agility for piloting (space) when flying things over a certain size/silhouette?

 

 



#15 LethalDose

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 02:06 PM

 

@ AluminumWolf: I'm going to address your post(s?) first because I think its shows a substantial difference in who we think is responsible for piloting these ships.

 

AluminiumWolf said:

I still like the idea of actually flying a big ship being tied to agility. Parking something the size of a supercarrier is still the same as parking a car - you just need grace rather than speed.

I think parking a supercarrier and a car are fundamentally different activities. The former does require hand-eye coordination. The latter, well, doesn’t. at all. Bringing in a supercarrier is done using thrusters and tugs, and knowing how and when to use power where. And “Grace rather than speed” to me implies something other than “twitchy agility hands” to me.

AluminiumWolf said:


I am kind of thinking of this-
(assassins creed 3 naval warfare - also Star Trek Bridge Commander)

The cited video has as much to do with this conversation as the “Why PC’s don’t run” thread you quoted elsewhere, which is practically nothing. What you posted is nothing more than a contrived minigame in a 3rd person combat game. If they made it that way to keep it fun in a game where fun had a particular context. You cite Bridge commander. I haven’t played it, but it seems it takes some amount of cunning to get your targets into firing positions, more so than quick fingers. Regardless, these video games are entirely different beasts than narrative RPGs.

AluminiumWolf said:


No matter how big the ship, you still want a guy at the wheel with a light touch.


This is the real meat of it. You posted a great shot of a Seawolf helm, and since you’re using contemporary US Naval information as points for argument, I’m going to do the same. In your provided shot, we can see, I think, three stations manned by seaman. I’d guess these are two planesmen and a helmsman. Sitting above and behind them is likely the dive officer. This demonstrates the tunnel vision that has been inflicted on gamers by past game design. This picture completely leaves out the Officer of the Deck (OOD), and the conning officer (not sure if a sub has one, of if dive officer or OOD pulls double duty). The duties of all the positions are:

  • OOD is responsible for the disposition of the entire ship, including safe navigation, as representative of the Captain.
  • The Conning officer is responsible for directing the ships course by giving instructions to the helmsman.
  • The Dive officer is responsible for directing the planesmen to set the ship’s trim (dive inclination) at the direction of the OOD or conning officer
  • The helmsman sets the ships heading (direction) by the orders of the conn officer.
  • The planesmen set the ship’s trim by the order of the dive officer.

I admit, there may be some glitches in the specific descriptions above, and I admit the closest I have to experience in this field is Wikipedia and The Bluejacket’s Manual (24th ed.), but the point remains:  The guys you say should “have a light touch”, the helmsmen and planesman, are not the ones responsible for sailing the ship!!!!

That sub is being sailed by the conning officer and OOD! And I think they guy deciding where the ship should go, how it should get there, and why its going there, should be considered the one to be “piloting the ship”, and doing all this doesn’t require any hand-eye coordination! It’s about moving into a superior tactical position.

Long story short: The Conning officer should be the one to make the Pilot roll.

A minor point here is that the helmsmen and planesmen are usually enlisted seamen, probably not above an E-6 (again, could be wrong), and usually the players are going to be at least junior officers on a ship crew. Better to give a boost die to ships with combat experienced or “light-touched” helmsmen.  There's also typically several of these "pilots", narratively it makes more sense for their commander to make the rolls.  The helmsmen really are just peons.

If you think ships like the Falcon are comparable, then you’re taking all of the jobs above (OOD, Conn, Helm) and smashing them into a single person. And I would view the majority of the “hard part” of flying being the OOD/Conn part of this:

  • Where the ship going
  • How the ship is getting there
  • Why the ship is getting there

In response to your comments RE: fighters and dogfights. Well, yeah, there’s a manual for it because fighter pilots improve by studying, not by doing gymnastics. They hone their minds and learn to be aggressive. There is physical training for modern fighter pilots, but that’s largely to resist G-forces, which doesn’t have much place when your ship has artificial gravity to negate those g's.

It’s a little anecdotal to making my broader point, but if you want a great bit of “cunning-style” theory derived by fighter pilots on how to fighter pilots fight, read up on Col. John Boyd, USAF, and the OODA loop. This has been expanded WAY beyond fighter tactics, but it came from ol’ Genghis John. He’s also the reason the USMC has a “maneuver warfare” doctrine now.

 

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 03:09 PM

 It is probably worth noting that I can certainly see the argument for using cunning, I just think agility is cooler.

--

Er, I race sailing boats, or at least I do when the local lake isn't closed due to blue green algae, and I'd have said that winning races definitely depends more on cunning than agility, but I like to pretend that agility has more to do with direct boat handling. (I also like to pretend that my Dad, who I still sail with, is a better boat handler than I am, but doesn't have the killer instinct it takes to do well at racing). I guess making the boat go fast really depends on how you trim the sails and balance the weight in the boat, which isn't really agility. But still.

As to how this relates to bigger ships, well, on the one hand as a dingy sailor the sailing model in the Assassins Creed video sort of annoys me - I have bought and played and enjoyed sailing sims, and I like them to work properly. On the other hand, that video does look dead cool, and a realistic sim would likely be very, very inaccesible to people who are going to play the game. And I'd swear the assassins creed dude is using agility to steer his boat. And I think people are more likely to want to be the assassin that the real life Captain of a guided missile destroyer.

So, 

1: I think the assassins creed clip is more what we should be aiming for capital ship combat to feel like than a realistic simulation of anything

2: I like the image of the helmsman of a big ship needing to be a like a virtuoso pianist with a light touch who can, if needed, fly a Star Destroyer at flank speed through hole in an asteroid that is only a few tens of meters bigger than the ship.

(I also know nothing about the practice of steering a big ship - but here is a short video of a Cruise Ship captain who at one point talks about the various rotating propellers and bow thrusters that they use to control the ship at low speed-

 )

 



#17 LethalDose

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 04:45 PM

 I appreciate the feedback on this forum. I refrained from making any comment until now because I wanted see where discussion went organically. It played out more or less the way I expected it to, and now I can build a relatively succinct rebuttal to the points.

For clarity, There are two major game balance points I desired to address with this thread. They are:

  • I find that agility is too important to the conduct of vehicular combat, and combat in general
  • I would like to see the Smuggler career, especially the Pilot specialization tree, feel more dependent on the Cunning attribute.

I think changing pilot(Space) to a Cunning skill is supported by the following:

  • It better reflects the description of the skill in the RAW
  • For ship silhouettes 1-4, it better reflects, at least part of, modern dog-fighting theory (The OODA loop)
  • For ship silhouettes 5-8, agility is an irrelevant stat.


I find that agility is too important to the conduct of vehicular combat, and combat in general

As it stands, Agility skills are used to check all movement and weapons fire in all vehicular combat, all ranged combat skills, and several general skills. Given the frequency with which these check are made, I feel that agility is over-represented and gives too much power to players who heavily weight agility to those that don’t. Agility is simply “too good” of a stat because it has too many bonuses associated with improving that stat compared to other stats. It is my experience that these situations lead to polarized play environments where players that did not “stack agility” for whatever reason, feel much less useful than those who took easy character optimization choices. It pushes players to create more homogenous characters instead varied characters to avoid being viewed as dead or seeing only one way to have fun. Character homogenization leads to a variety of role-play problems that really bring down fun for everyone at the table. I think we can all agree that vehicular combat is a frequent and important part of any Star Wars RPG, and removing some homogenization from at least space combat will improve the game. Taking Pilot(Space) away from agility will help to mitigate this homogenization and open the door further to more interesting characters and character creation decisions.


I would like to see the Smuggler career, especially the Pilot specialization tree, feel more dependent on the Cunning attribute

After learning about the attributes in this system, the first attribute when I hear “Smuggler” really is Cunning. These are characters are described in the first line of their career as “Crafty, diverse bunch”. They are cheats, survivors, grifters, and pilots that excel at making the most of what they have while always pursuing more, by any means necessary. Cunning should be an important part of the skills and talents for all 3 specializations in this career, and I think it is for the most part, except the Pilot, which has 3 agility skills and 1 intelligence skill (more agility skills than even the Thief has). Moving Pilot(Space) from agility to cunning helps balance these specs somewhat.

 

Pilot(space) as a cunning skill better reflects the description of the skill in the RAW

The first thing I did before starting this thread was to read description of Pilot(Space) in the Beta book. It was surprisingly obtuse about exact what is actually “done” with this skill, and instead discusses in some pretty text why sentients ply the space lanes. Further it states some actions are simple enough to not need rolls, but the situations may be more complicated, and then they do. So that was useless. The three examples they provide as bullets in the skill description are:

  • Competitive checks in a race
  • Opposed checks in a chase through [stellar obstacles of your choice]
  • Jockeying for position in a dogfight

Now, some people may think that speed and maneuverability is paramount in these situations, and I’d you were right. But speed and maneuverability are not qualities dictated by piloting skill, they are determined and set by the vehicle. So what does this mean for the piloting skill? It means that the skill represents a character’s ability to get the most performance possible out of his vehicle given his goals, his opponents’ goals, the environment, and the ships involved. Figuring out how to best accomplish this lands squarely at the feet of Cunning skills and abilities. Pilot(Space) represents the characters ability to use and maneuver an intricate and complex tool to further their combat/transportation goals. In a chase, part of the challenge of evading or capturing your opponent is outrunning them, but speed is determined by vehicle. The skill involved in capturing or evading capture is blocking avenues of escape or creating openings where the pursuer can’t follow, respective. This kind of maneuvering is Cunning. When jockeying for position in fighters, you are playing a similar game: You are trying to predict and maneuver against a wily opponent who is trying to do the same to you. It doesn’t matter much how fast your reflexes are, if you are moving predictably. Being unpredictable is a “Cunning” trait. They way a dogfight should (and does) go is:

  1. Cunning to get into better firing position, and deny the opponent a shot.
  2. Agility to make the shot when you’re there

Similar to planning an ambush (Survival) from which to strike with a ranged weapon (Ranged combat skill)

 

For ship silhouettes 1-4, Pilot(space) as a cunning skill better reflects, at least part of, modern dog-fighting theory (The OODA loop)

I have not read the book by Shaw above. I have read the biography of Col. Boyd, USAF. He was a cantankerous bastard of a fighter pilot who flew late in Korea, and became an almost unbeaten fighter pilot instructor at USAF Fighter Weapons School in the late 50’s and 60’s. I would be shocked if the cited book did not build on Aerial Attack Study he wrote during these years [Edit: I have found internet conversation stating Shaw takes straight from Boyd's manual], in addition to his Energy-Maneuverability theory and time-based theory of conflict. He developed several key military theories, including something called the OODA loop (part of his ‘Patterns of conflict’ presentation). OODA stands for:

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

It basically abstracts the steps of a human’s decision-making process: Observe the current environment, comprehend what it means, decide on a course of action, take the action, then observe the effects. He made it very clear that fighter pilots able to complete an OODA loop faster than their opponents will vastly increase their survival because they will decide on and control the terms of the engagement. The ability to perform this purely mental exercise is what dogfighting is all about. The ability to more quickly complete a loop (“thinking quickly” a quality of increased cunning, not agility) is what makes or breaks a pilot in these situations, not agility. The maneuverability and speed of the fighters helps or hinders the action step of an OODA loop, but none of the steps have anything to do with agility.

I appreciate Donovan’s point that, in WWII, fighter pilots we judged on hand-eye coordination, and Star Wars viewed it’s fighters as Mustangs, Lightnings, Mosquitoes, and Zeros. It was actually shown that many of the abilities and strategies used by WWII pilots were really implementations of the OODA loop, as were other tactics, such as the Blitzkrieg ("Get inside your opponents OODA loop via rapid response"). Many other concepts we see in the Star Wars space combat scenes are more evolved and modern than their WWII counterparts. Star Wars doesn’t use epic numbers of bombers to drop dumb explosives on targets. It uses guided projectiles and targeting computers (even if they do look like bomb sights and sh*tty 1970s computers). International orange flight suits weren’t used until the late 50’s or 60s. The point being, Star Wars wasn’t shackled to the WWII images/style. There’s no need to shackle RPG rules to outdated thinking either.

 

For ship silhouettes 5-8, agility is an irrelevant stat

I made the argument for piloting a capital ship using a cunning (or at least, non-agility)skill above. In essence, it depends on who you say is actually piloting the ship. I find it makes little sense to attribute the piloting ability to the helmsman, because the most important factors concerning ship movement are not a “light touch” or fast reflexes, they are instead:

  • Where is the ship going
  • How is the ship getting there
  • Why is the ship going there

These are decisions made by the Conn officer. Further, it makes sense to have one character making on roll for ship piloting, even though there are multiple individual characters (should be NPCs) involved in carrying the decision out. The person who makes the most sense to make this roll is the Conn officer, and his ability to make that roll has nothing to do with his hand-eye cooridination.

In conclusion, breaking piloting away from agility is a major change to the most common RPG design paradigms.

I assure you, change is okay.

And, I believe that this change, if implemented, will lead to better game experience for everyone who plays this game.

 

-WJL


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#18 LethalDose

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 04:50 PM

 The abridged version:

There are 2 game balance reasons I think Pilot(Space) should be a Cunning skill:

  1. I find that agility is too important to the conduct of vehicular combat, and combat in general
  2. I would like to see the Smuggler career, especially the Pilot specialization tree, feel more dependent on the Cunning attribute.

There are 3 "flavor" reasons I think Pilot(Space) should be a Cunning skill:

  1. It better reflects the description of the skill in the RAW
  2. For ship silhouettes 1-4, it better reflects, at least part of, modern dog-fighting theory (The OODA loop)
  3. For ship silhouettes 5-8, agility is an irrelevant stat.

 

If you think the feel is off, but there aren't mechanical game reasons to change the design, please read points 1 and 2 above.

If you think the feel is fine, please read points 3, 4, & 5 above

 

Really gotta say thanks to anyone who actually reads through it.

 

-WJL


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Posted 25 September 2012 - 05:33 PM

LethalDose said:

I assure you, change is okay.

 

Does that mean we can start lifting styles and mechanics from video games now? :0)

--

Like I say, is there any way to hive off 'tactics' from 'flying'? I don't think I am ever going to want flying down the Death Star Trench to be a test of cunning.

And really Cunning is still Mental Agility. If we really wanted to open up character types, Slow And Powerful should be an option!

 



#20 dougnugget

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 03:15 AM

 Hmm… sounds to me like Agility works fine for smaller craft, but for larger craft Intellect is the best fit for non-combat piloting, and possibly Cunning for combat piloting of larger craft.

Honestly, my preferred solution would be to keep Piloting as an Agility skill, and use a completely different mechanic for capital ships based on tactical and leadership ability. With capital ships, there's too much going on to default to a single skill check anyway - gunnery crews will be using their Agility, tactical crew their Intellect and Cunning, and command staff their Presence.






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