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How do you handle players escaping a planetary blockade?

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Especially if that blockade is small.

I had an introductory adventure today, where the players started on a very remote ice planet with just a few mining colonies and less than 2000 inhabitants in total.

The empire shows up and proclaims the colonies under Imperial occupation because the mining company has colluded with the rebellion.
So the players steal a light freighter (guess the class! :P ) and try to escape.

The problem was that it was pretty easy to escape. 

The planet wasn't supposed to have any ships (the freighter was a hidden escape plan for the local crime boss), so the empire didn't go in all that strong. They showed up with a Star Destroyer orbiting above the main colony (where the players were) and stared sending out TIE's to the colonies themselves.

But the players were airborne and on the way before the TIE's had reached them (a few lucky rolls from the players), so when I asked them how they planned to escape the Star Destroyer, they just said "we'll fly the other way", more or less.

And since the Star Destroyer wouldn't set after one lone light freighter, all that happened was that some TIE's started pursuit, but due to another lucky roll, the players managed to jump away before they got close.

So, while a lot of this was due to lucky rolls, I still wonder how you would handle an Imperial blockade consisting of one Star Destroyer and it's complement of TIE's and other ships?

For future reference, of course.

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A blockade only happens when you have the ability to prevent what they did.

Given the ranges on Star Destroyers, and the size of the planet, lets assume Earth-ish or less, with 8 and their accompanying fighters, you could set up a kill box around a world.  

One ship isn't a blockade, one ship is a request to stop that can be ignored.

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If you want to blockade a colony with one Star Destroyer, the colony needs to be a single location/settlement and you need to park that SD right over the settlement at low altitude (within the atmosphere) where it's guns can target any point in, above, and around the settlement. The only good hope for escape from that settlement is to get out before the blockading SD gets into in that position.

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Yeah, a "full lockdown" blockade would have to be a pretty massive affair. Multiple Star Destroyers, constant fighter patrols, and an orbital satellite network to detect any ships entering the system or trying to leave the planet.  A decent pilot ain't likely to get caught by an ISD, but those fighters will be on him before he breaks atmo.

In your case, I think you did it right.  It's not much of a blockade, the PCs are the star of the show, they have a decent ship, and they rolled well. Yeah, they should make their getaway. The blockade is still preventing mass shipping of material from the mines, and it's going to take a decent force to drive off an ISD.

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I'll offer the opposite of the majority opinion.  In the shows, the protagonists are always trying to get past some blockade or another, but you never see more than a few enemy ships.  In terms of game mechanics, most scanners for the ships the PCs will be in can't detect anything past Close range (or maybe Short), whereas big Imperial ships can scan and shoot much further.  So if the PCs can see the enemy, they are likely at Close or Short range, and the enemy has already been tracking them.  Even a light turbolaser has a range to Medium, so it will take a turn or two to get away, and meanwhile TIEs can be deployed right on top of them.

The net effect is the ships are wherever you need them to be to cause an encounter.  The PCs won't know where the enemy is, so you can put them where you want.

All that said, I'm not really a fan of how the sensors, speed, and ranges work in this game, but it does provide a handy rationale for not having to put all your cards on the table and have the PCs just "fly in the other direction".

Edited by whafrog

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In the end, it's all about scale. As long as we're in "Every planet has one important city" territory, the lone ISD is completely enough - as HappyDaze mentioned, just let it hover in-atmo, ready to squish anything that moves. For a more realistic world size, you'd be looking at dozens or hundreds of ships. Now, making sure noone gets in is far easier, since a planet's surface is small compared to the size of a star system, so a ship in orbit can always position itself between an incoming ship and the planet - and, if necessary, just go for some light planetary bombardment after the ship has landed.

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Early in the game, I've established that astrogation is only easy and without challenge, if you travel along a mapped hyperlane, moving buoy over buoy, and that calculating a jump freehand is quite time-consuming. 

A single SD, for what it's worth, could blockade the one established trajectory from a cul-de-sac. And, the Empire might have the authority/capabilities to deactivate neighbouring buoys. 

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Ships in atmosphere are naturally much, much slower than in space. So an ISD in orbit could probably match a faster ship that has to content with atmospheric flight, keeping in the way, sending TIEs to intercept if the blockade runner tries to keep low. Of course, one ship simply cannot blockade a planet, even a lowly populated one. An ISD is more or less a show of force.
 

Actions have consequences. How about some retaliatory orbital bombardment? ... ;)

Edited by Franigo

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8 ISDs with heavy turbo lasers sets up a cube of interlocking fields of fire around an Earthish sized planet.  Each carries 72 TIE fighters.  After a few knuckle heads get shot down, the overwhelming majority would just pull up to the inspection check points and be done with it.

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A busy planet not complying would require more, but the TF in TPM also was an invasion force.

GMs need to keep in mind a single ISD has 72 fighters, which can be a serious mix of capabilities depending on model.  Numerous shuttles and landers that can support the 9700 embarked stormtroopers and their equipment.  

8 would be 77,600 troops and their supporting equipment/vehicles, so plenty of ground based anti-ship capability as well as 576 TIEs.

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Hm, but I think they won't deploy 576 TIEs for one light freighter. Maybe there are a few patrols and when they detect the freighter, they launch a few more, that should be enough to take them down. Or make the leader of the blockade extremely arrogant. "A freighter? No need to launch more TIEs, our turbolasers will deal with it."

That, followed by a nice chase scene with some TIEs through the side trenches of the SD and a super tight jump to lightspeed. You have so many elements there to build up that climax.. TIEs chasing them, the nasty obstacles in the trench, explosions and debris getting in their way, shot off by the other Star Destroyer, not caring firing at their own ship trying to hit them, and the engine wash after clearing the trench...

The only problem could be if you roll without a GM screen.. because if you want the tight escape, you have to miss with most of the shots, otherwise your super arrogant captain will be more like "Oh, a freighter *pew*..problem solved" :D

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8 hours ago, korjik said:

Then again, if you can hyper out in atmo, a half dozen full fleets wouldnt be able to blockade a planet.

Then again, if you pay attention to FA (and even R1), lots of previous materials are fairly invalid. I tend towards ignoring anything made in the last few years.

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Hm, hyper out of atmosphere can only be done by overriding safety features of the hyperdrive. The safety feature which prevents jumping in the vicinity of a mass shadow. When there is a full fleet in orbit, with hundreds of TIEs there is a quite great chance, that you will fly into something on your trajectory out...

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5 minutes ago, MasterZelgadis said:

Hm, hyper out of atmosphere can only be done by overriding safety features of the hyperdrive. The safety feature which prevents jumping in the vicinity of a mass shadow. When there is a full fleet in orbit, with hundreds of TIEs there is a quite great chance, that you will fly into something on your trajectory out...

Actually the chance is pretty much zero. In real life there are literally thousands of bits of debris all in pretty much random orbits, and there is one instance of a possible collision. Not even a confirmed collision, only a possible.

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1 hour ago, HappyDaze said:

Then again, if you pay attention to FA (and even R1), lots of previous materials are fairly invalid. I tend towards ignoring anything made in the last few years.

In the former example it's clearly shown as not being a very safe or sensible thing to do. They pretty much have a "uncontrollable" crash that is somehow incapable of dealing any lasting damage to the vessel. XD (I for one would have loved for the Falcon be destoryed as ominous overshadowing for Han's Fate.) But there is clearly a reason that people don't usually jump in atmosphere, if anything is between the jumper and the destination, they are going to smack into it really hard.

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Well good grief, if the Empire was smart, and wanted a cheaper alternative. Why don't they just hyperdrive a Star Destroyer into any planet they wanted, I am sure that is cheaper than building a Death Star, and you won't have any weaknesses the rebellion can exploit to blow up your moon space station laser beam ball.

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9 hours ago, MasterZelgadis said:

Hm, but I think they won't deploy 576 TIEs for one light freighter. Maybe there are a few patrols and when they detect the freighter, they launch a few more, that should be enough to take them down. Or make the leader of the blockade extremely arrogant. "A freighter? No need to launch more TIEs, our turbolasers will deal with it."

That, followed by a nice chase scene with some TIEs through the side trenches of the SD and a super tight jump to lightspeed. You have so many elements there to build up that climax.. TIEs chasing them, the nasty obstacles in the trench, explosions and debris getting in their way, shot off by the other Star Destroyer, not caring firing at their own ship trying to hit them, and the engine wash after clearing the trench...

The only problem could be if you roll without a GM screen.. because if you want the tight escape, you have to miss with most of the shots, otherwise your super arrogant captain will be more like "Oh, a freighter *pew*..problem solved" :D

What they would do is place the ISDs in the point positions on the cube around a world to create interlocking fields of fire with their big guns.  The TIEs would be deployed in a rotating 8 hours shift schedules with for instance 192 in the air, or 1/3, 192 on alert, and 192 down for rest, maintenance etc.  The TIE assets would be used to plug the planetary poles, which are just outside the range of the ISDs big guns, and to act as interception of anyone running the formation.  Shuttles would alse be deployed in orbital locations with Stormtrooper boarding parties.  Some of the 77,000 Stormtroopers carried by 8 ISDs could be deployed planetside with various anti ship guns/missiles in any potential gap locations as well.

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5 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

What they would do is place the ISDs in the point positions on the cube around a world to create interlocking fields of fire with their big guns.

That might be a "real world" method, but it doesn't explain at all what we see in the movies or shows.  It's notable that the Imperials seem to be able to blockade a planet with only one or two SDs and perhaps several smaller ships.  In the movies and shows, if there is a blockade you either have to punch through it with firepower, or try to speed past it avoiding damage but enduring contact.  Prime example is the Rebels episode where they discover the B-Wing.  They keep coming at the blockade (which only has a couple small corvettes) from the same angle and keep making the same run.

There are a few metaphysical options, but the one I use is:  the only safety is hyperspace.  Hyperspace exit and entry points have varying degrees of safety or utility.  The Imps can control a planet if they control the most used and safest points.  If you want to use a different point, it's a lot more dangerous, takes more time to calculate, requires knowledge of alternate points, and while you're hunting for the right spot and orientation the enemy can be hunting you.  In the Rebels B-Wing episode, either the other hyperspace entry points were too dangerous to use, or they simply didn't exist.

This way, if the PCs want to leave or enter a blockaded planet, they have to work for it, and can't just run around willy-nilly and avoid it.  A blockade has to mean something, or it's not worth the label.

The other thing I've done is house-rule away Speed.  Enemies always seem to be able to keep up, and the protagonists always need to use subterfuge, trickery, or resistance techniques ("keep them off our backs until we can jump!") to get away.  If SDs can intercept the Millennium Falcon (at the beginning of E4), then real-space speed doesn't matter too much.  Sure star fighters and the like can zip around SDs and use them as terrain, but in a straight line the SD can clearly keep up, so you can't just "fly away".  The game gets this wrong, I think, it's really all about handling, not raw speed.

Those two (though you really only need the first one) can work together to replicate what is seen in the movies and shows, without a reliance on real world ideas and massive amounts of military hardware to quarantine a planet.

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If you've occupied a planet long enough you wouldn't need any cap ships.  You could use a combination of fighters/gunships coupled with ground based weapon emplacements to lock up airspace around a planet as well, so that only a couple small 'almost cap ships' would be needed for boarding operations.

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