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HappyDaze

Sensor Range is really odd.

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The rules for Sensor Range seem pretty straightforward, but they create some really odd situations.

 

It's quite possible for weapons like turbolasers to take out fighters without the fighters even being able to detect what's firing at them. Further, they couldn't even communicate with the vessel firing on them - but it can communicate with them.

 

If the PCs have a ship with Sensor Range Medium, they should always detect incoming fighters before the fighters can see them. At this point, they should almost always be able to evade the fighters if they wish since movement (Fly/Drive) is relative to another unit. If they can't detect you, then moving toward you in space is pretty **** unlikely unless you can't maneuver or you let it happen.

 

 

I really hope that sensor feeds can be shared (like a Star Destroyer keeping its TIEs aware of a target outside of the fighters' own Sensor Range) but this depends on Comms functioning so long as either unit has the range (otherwise the TIEs could only receive or only transmit - still not sure which one the Comms range covers).

 

 

 

 

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Is there anything about this game you like? I've seen several of these threads.

Anyways, I think it makes sense in some regard. During a battle a command ship will feed info/orders to the fighters. Take out the command ship and the battle becomes harder. At the same time, combat in star wars has more in common with WWII fighters, and I don't recall most of them having heavy electronic suites and gear.

Electronic countermeasures and jamming becomes very important with your example.

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So, with Comms, is the range how far a vessel can transmit, or is it how far the vessel can pick-up transmissions?

 

Example: A Y-wing (Sensor/Comms Range Close) and a Citadel-class Freighter (Sensor/Comms Range Medium) are at Medium range to one another. Can the Y-wing communicate with the Citadel? How about the reverse?

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Comms seem to imply bidirectional communication, although I would rule it that a ship can receive from outside its transmit range if the transmitter was powerful enough.  Receiving range doesn't necessarily jive with me, it would seem to be all about the power of the broadcast, but perhaps comms don't work like omnidirectional broadcasts and instead rely upon the same technology that magically makes weapons stop at X range as well.

 

Also, I'd certainly allow for a mothership to transmit situational data to its childrenships, although I would likely handwave it as "built into the mechanic already" instead of breaking out the sliderule to split hairs over range.  

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Comm range is effectively unlimited. Radio waves travel at the speed of light, so it's not a matter of IF a transmission reaches somewhere, only a matter of WHEN.

 

I typically just subordinate sensor ranges to plot. If I want someone to notice something at the far end of their sensor range, I just say, "you happen to be scanning in this direction when...". And if not, I'd say "you're momentarily distracted from your sensor board so it comes as a total surprise when the enemy fighters appear". I wouldn't do this if a player specifically stated that he was actively scanning around the ship, but other than that it's fair game.

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I'd think, perhaps, that the range is how far the on board equipment can reliably transmit communications. So, as with your example I'd think that the Y-Wing could receive and send transmissions to the Citadel Freighter as long as they remained within comms range. It makes sense, to me, that the one with the longest range in these things would trump the shorter range. So too with allied capital ships, they would provide information about the battle field to fighters with shorter sensor range.

 

When it comes to sensors range I've come to the conclusion that the passive and active range are for detailed information - beyond that range the information gleaned is limited to approximate silhouette, approximate trajectory, and a limited energy reading that could provide information about whether the sensor blip is powered or not, but not necessarily how much power it uses, so one couldn't figure out whether weapons are powered or present (unless Triumph perhaps).

 

Also, anything beyond Passive range requires a check and is directional. I've toyed with a starship action idea that I call Sensor Sweep, it requires a Computer check, difficulty starts at Hard at 1 range band beyond active sensor range and is increased once per additional range band, it provides little information (as mentioned above), but it's useful for discovering potential pirates and the like. Of course you can't know whether they're pirates, traders, customs or waht, but you'll know that there's a large starship (silhouette 5-6) somewhere close to that asteroid and it's swarmed by a approximated number of silhouette 3-4 starships. A good success or some advantages could tell you whether they're moving, perhaps trajectory and whether or not they're powered up or not.

Edited by Jegergryte

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We do see that the Yavin IV base can communicate with the fighters attacking the Death Star. The distance between them would have been at least Long (planetary, obviously). This tells me that the stronger Comms range appears to override the shorter (especially as Luke could reply).

 

Apparently the Comms don't require uninterrupted LOE either, or else the gas giant of Yavin would have disrupted the signals during part of the battle (unless there were relays of some sort).

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I was listening to the radio drama again a few days ago and noticed something about the scene where the Falcon arrives at the remains of Alderaan. The Death Star detects them and then hits them with a tractor beam. However, before they get close enough for the Death Star to do a full life form scan, the heroes have hidden in the compartment. 

 

So it seem like there are two ranges, a far range where you can fire your weapons (or use tractor beams) and a closer range where you can do all the fancy scanning. Looking over the rulebook you can see some ships, such as the Y-Wing, have weapons with longer ranges than their scanning range. 

 

If you look at the sample adventure in the rulebook, there is a scene where the players arrive at an asteroid that has a sensor drone. The players can scan asteroid and detect the sensor drone before it detects them despite the fact that the sensor drone has Medium range and starting PC ships are limited to Short.

Edited by Hedgehobbit

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I don't think the designers wanted to get bogged down in the details of ranges for various levels of sophistication in sensor information and levels of data throughput for sensors and comms.  I'm thinking they wanted it hammered out at every table.  There are a lot of ways to come at the idea depending on the level of specificity a GM and his players desire.

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Just pure speculation, but if someone is scanning your ship you may be able to know that (as we have seen on Star Trek). This is mainly because in order to scan "something" you have to send electromagnetic-waves (or particles) to the "something". Then, the "something" being scanned, with its short range sensors may detect that someone is scanning them although they may not know what is scanning them, or its size, or the exact distance.

 

It is more difficult to justify that a ship with short range communication equipment can communicate with a vessel at long range, even if that vessel has long range sensors. That is because, still, the ship sensor range ends up at short. And this is not only a mater of when the wave will reach, as it has been said, but of signal intensity. Indeed an electromagnetic wave travels at the speed of light, but its intensity will decay with distance because the information carried by the wave spreads over a larger (spherical) surface as it travels further away from the origin, more or less following the expression power ~ 1/(d^2) where d is the distance from the source. So, doubling the distance from a transmitter means that the power density of the radiated wave at that new location is reduced to one-quarter of its previous value.

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The rules for Sensor Range seem pretty straightforward, but they create some really odd situations.

 

It's quite possible for weapons like turbolasers to take out fighters without the fighters even being able to detect what's firing at them. Further, they couldn't even communicate with the vessel firing on them - but it can communicate with them.

 

If the PCs have a ship with Sensor Range Medium, they should always detect incoming fighters before the fighters can see them. At this point, they should almost always be able to evade the fighters if they wish since movement (Fly/Drive) is relative to another unit. If they can't detect you, then moving toward you in space is pretty **** unlikely unless you can't maneuver or you let it happen.

 

 

I really hope that sensor feeds can be shared (like a Star Destroyer keeping its TIEs aware of a target outside of the fighters' own Sensor Range) but this depends on Comms functioning so long as either unit has the range (otherwise the TIEs could only receive or only transmit - still not sure which one the Comms range covers).

 

(Other than for "Slice Enemy's Systems") I wouldn't base Comms range on Sensor range.  I wouldn't even give them a range (within reason).  The only time the strength and reliability of a communication signal should come up is if something is interfering with it, and then it's a Computer roll vs. a difficulty based on the severity of the disturbance.

 

Sensor-wise, you could probably plot a direction if you've been subjected to an active scan (their scanning beams - whatever their nature - are striking your vessel's skin, right?).

If that doesn't sound plausible to you, then after you get fired upon you should be able to plot the direction approaching lasers/blaster bolts came from.

Either way it should be enough to close the distance.  If that's still not within your sensor range and they've moved to evade, you may have a cat-and-mouse fight going on.

 

EDIT: Beaten to the punch by Yepesnopes.

Edited by Col. Orange
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I think I said about this in a Sensors thread before, and maybe someone can help me out. At the twilight of Wizards' RCR there was something in a web article, (I think; I can't seem to find it in my books or my downloads,) where they did away with range limits.

 

All sensors went to extreme range and the difficulty was set by the size of an object, modified by distance and the sensor quality of the ship.

 

Does anyone remember where that came from?

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In a universe where Repulsors have negated the effects of gravity, any sort of mass can be moved FTL, and people can have real time holographic conversations at inter-galactic distances, the physics of the universe essentially support pretty much any determination any group and GM can agree to.

Edited by 2P51

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In something in the Imperial Navy I would imagine a lot of support for fighters is via their motherships, so they'd have the TIE's turn off their sensors completely (or run on passive) and rely on a feed back to the fleet for their targetting information.

 

Modern day airforces do similar things with an AWAC's, leveraging off its long range radar and electron warfare capabilities so the fighter plane doesn't have any electronic noise on the way in that can be targetted by counter-batteries, SAM's and radar seeking missiles.

 

For a situation like a planetary defence squadron, they'd use something like the TIE/FC fire control fighter that the other TIE's rely on for extending their sensor range. FC's would also find a role in the fleet as part of outer picket past the range of fleet sensors and on search duties

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and people can have real time holographic conversations at inter-galactic distances

Yeah, Star Wars often plays fast and loose with physics. Which is OK, it's the direction that universe has gone; it's less grounded in practical application of technology than handwaiving the truly technical bits for the sake of the ongoing plot.

 

This example here makes me think of FTL communications in David Weber's Honorverse, which is a much more hard-science world than Star Wars (which I think of more as space opera sci-fantasy, more comparable to Dune than to, say, the Honorverse or Star Trek). In the Honorverse, FTL communications were ultimately solved by encoding communications in gravity waves, picked up in real-time by ships' gravity sensors. This was faster than the method of using radio waves, which still take time (even at light speed) to cross the distance of a solar system.

 

In Star Wars, the technical side of that technology isn't really explored. A person in the Core can talk (apparently) real-time through a hologram with someone in the Outer Rim, a distance of many light-years that would take even gravity waves a long time to pass to. It probably involves the HoloNet and, honestly, isn't worth figuring out the nitty-gritty of.

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I've always had my own rationalization for the whole "instant Holonet across-galaxy real-time thing". I see ships as still being limited by their mass and thrust ratios, even while traveling through subspace. But a comm signal is not. When a signal travels through subspace, it is effectively traveling at faster than light speed times light speed.

 

At least, that's how I keep verisimilitude alive and well in my mind when I see stuff like that in the movies or on TCW...

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(Other than for "Slice Enemy's Systems") I wouldn't base Comms range on Sensor range.  I wouldn't even give them a range (within reason).  The only time the strength and reliability of a communication signal should come up is if something is interfering with it, and then it's a Computer roll vs. a difficulty based on the severity of the disturbance.

 

I think this is a good way of playing it.

Use sensor range for "Slice Enemy's System", or for scanning objects and getting detailed information (like amount and type of weapons, live forms etc.). For communication / detection purposes I will leave open to any range band.

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I must be in the minority that thinks the limitations of sensors and communications is a feature that can create interesting scenarios rather than a bug. 

 

"We are waiting for them to report in," is much more Star Wars to me than constant and perfect communication.

Edited by Doc, the Weasel
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You're not the only one, Doc. With Age of Rebellion coming soonish, I'm going to be runnibg that game starting on an imperial shio - the playera are imps, and i plan to make enemy ships, along with their own, have to keep to a certain range. If taking out the rebel scums' capitol ship, that funnels info and communication through it, should be a viable and dramatic tactic.

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I've always figured that all ships have long-range scanners that can at minimum detect enemy ships and identify silhouette, if not make/model and transponder codes. To not alter mechanics too much, I'd say these scanners are insufficient for targeting, bioscans, etc.

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I've sometimes thought about this—I mean, can't someone just look out a window and see that Star Destroyer in the distance. Then again... Space is big. It's really, really big.

 

A star destroyer 1,600 meters long at Long Range (figure 3,000 kilometers away) has an angular size of approximately 110 arcseconds. To put that in perspective that's about twice the angular size of Jupiter from Earth so it's going to look like a biggish star assuming it's even lit since space is also really, really dark. At Extreme Range, it might as well be indistinguishable from the rest of the stars. Maybe it'd be more noticeable if it were moving. Or firing lasers at you.

 

At Medium Range, say 300 kilometers, that star destroyer now has an angular size of approximately 18 arcminutes or about half the size of the Moon in the sky. One can reasonably expect to see that, certainly. At Short Range, 36 kilometers, it now looks about five times the size of the Moon in the sky (152 arcminutes).

 

A CR90 (150 m) at Medium Range (300 km) is about 103 arcseconds. A YT-1300 (35 m) at the same range is about 24 arcseconds or the size of Saturn as seen from Earth.

 

A TIE/LN (6 m) at Medium is about 4 arcseconds or same as the angular size Uranus from Earth on a good day. Short Range isn't much better at 34 arcseconds. You might not even see a TIE until it's practically on top of you with how fast they move. Narratively, that even makes sense given the encounter the Millennium Falcon has with the TIE fighter upon exiting hyperspace near Alderaan-that-was—it kinda snuck up on them before bugging out towards the Death Star.

 

Anyways, just a fun little thought experiment.

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I've always figured that all ships have long-range scanners that can at minimum detect enemy ships and identify silhouette, if not make/model and transponder codes. To not alter mechanics too much, I'd say these scanners are insufficient for targeting, bioscans, etc.

 

For me, communications is not sensors.  That part is quite simple.

 

 

Moreover, in our "real world", it is possible to have large, high-powered transmitters that are also coupled with highly sensitive receivers, so that your large central base station could pick up your weak handheld signal from a very long distance away, and it could likewise transmit successfully to you across those long distances.  You could use this to relay your communications to others who are close enough to you that you might want to coordinate your actions with them, but they're far enough away that your own communications range is not sufficient to reach them directly.

 

Of course, in that same "real world" transmission power and reception sensitivity are not necessarily linked.  You might be able to hear someone else, but not be able to make them hear you.  In fact, as you get close to the edge of communications range, this kind of situation is quite common -- hence the TV commercials where people go wandering around saying "Can you hear me now?"

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I think I said about this in a Sensors thread before, and maybe someone can help me out. At the twilight of Wizards' RCR there was something in a web article, (I think; I can't seem to find it in my books or my downloads,) where they did away with range limits.

 

All sensors went to extreme range and the difficulty was set by the size of an object, modified by distance and the sensor quality of the ship.

 

Does anyone remember where that came from?

After looking for the umpteenth time, it turns out those are the RCR sensor rules, (more or less.)

 

What a prick.

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When it comes to anything related to star-ships in our game, we really just roll with 'Plot'.  We find that 'our' space combat is just fine not getting to wrapped up in the rules or minutiae.

 

While we have a pilot and he is very useful now that we have a ship and all, we all kind of agree that the RAW for space combat and ship stats just isn't what the game was designed for.

 

We don't forgo space combat, we just kind of wing it really. (with X-Wing minis and lots of sound effects! Pew Pew!)

 

I know this wasn't helpful, but...

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