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Dusk Raven

Shields as "Shield Points" instead of Defense

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How shields work is kind of vague in the movies. In Return of the Jedi a shield can totally block all entry to a space station (or a planet), but other times they seem to reduce damage in the same way that Star Trek's shields do. Further complicating matters is that in most video games (Star Wars or otherwise), shields represent an additional (but rechargeable) health bar. EotE/AoR/et al take the "damage mitigation" approach by having Shields provide defense, but I want to see if a system can be created where a craft's shields are instead represented as "shield points." I don't have much for it at the moment, just the idea that it essentially serves as a second HP count, except that shields have no soak value and prevent Critical Hits as long as the shields are up.

I don't know if this has been done before (the search I tried to do was not exactly helpful), but I was curious if anyone had thoughts on this, or ideas for how to balance it.

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So the shields are a pretty abstract concept in the movies, and like most every other tech in the movies they simply do what the plot needs them to. There are different types and brands of shields that deflect energy, phsyical matter, particles, etc. I suggest checking out the wookieepedia entry for shields for the canon/legends "explanations" for the different shields and justifications for the way they operate in the movies.

 

I understand why FFG went with setback dice, even if it might feel counterintuitive. It cuts down on bookkeeping and is easy to balance. As an abstraction it seems to work. Sometimes shileds and armor block everything being thrown at them, other times damage still gets through. On a single setback dice there is a 1-in-3 chance to negate a success, a 1-in-3 chance for a threat, and a 1-in-3 chance that the shields do nothing. I feel like this abstracts their portrayal in the movies pretty well and means less numbers for me to keep track of.

There have been other efforts in this forum and others to homebrew "shields as points". What level of bookkeeping are you up for? I've seen ideas that range from using shields as points that you "cash in" to negate successes, shields treated as soak, and others that completely rework the  HT/SS/Shield formulas. I have no idea how balanced any of them are, however.

The one I've seen brought up the most on another forum treats shields as kind of an opposed check. After the attack, the defending player rolls a number of green dice (yellow for capital ships) equal to the shield value in the area being attacked; each success cancels one damage and triumphs either raise the crit value of the attacking weapon by 1 or reduce its breach by 2 (defender's choice). After that, armor applies as normal. This system, however, completely rewords HT and SS as well: All ships increase HT by a percentage equal to 20+(10*Sil), and SS by a percentage of 15+(8*Sil). Starfighters and snubs add a number of seetback dice equal to Piloting + 1/2 Handling (rounded up) when being targeted.

Shields as points can work if you're willing to keep track of them and come up with an easy system for regeneration (probably 1 point per turn). The simplest off the top of my head would be: shields act as armor for the area being attacked. One point of damage is negate per point of shield, but each point of damage negated reduces the shield value in that area by one. Shields recharge at a rate of one point per round (is that per area? or is that a total and someone has to be at the shield controls to assign it?). Angle Deflector Shields and boost shields work as normal. 

All-in-all, a fun rpg-though exercise, and I look forward to hearing what you come up with :)

Edited by panpolyqueergeek

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A straightforward version of this is to treat shields as effectively being ranks in Deflect. Suffer X system strain to reduce the damage of an attack (before armour) by X, where X is a number up to your shield rating.

Your system strain functions as a 2nd HP bar, one that can already be regenerated. No extra bookkeeping to do. Plus it makes shielded ships (i.e. the ones the PCs are more likely to be flying) most likely to be disabled by running out of strain, rather than hull, so once the combat ends you can fix them up and participate in the next one- rather than dying or having to spend the rest of the adventure in an escape pod.

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I don't think any amount of bookkeeping would be tougher than the kind of stuff I (and my group) has already done. I am concerned about adding complexity for no real benefit, but that's another issue...

Anyway, the most basic idea I had was this: ships with shields have "Shield Points" which are reduced first when the ship takes most forms of damage (more on that later). Shields have no Armor (or Soak, for personal shield generators), and thus a given number of SP is worth less than the same number of HP - so it's not as much of a deal if they regenerate. If an attack reduces SP to 0, the remaining damage is applied to the ship's hull, although this can potentially mean that the remaining damage is completely absorbed by the ship's armor. Further, Critical Hits are negated so long as the damage the ship takes is entirely applied to SP.

The "Angle Deflector Shields" Maneuver would, if kept. mean that the ship's current SP is doubled, but the defenses apply only in a single facing. ...At least for ships with only forward and aft defenses, I'm not sure I want to think about how it'd work with four defense facings...

Anyway, I don't think it'll be too hard to come up with numbers that are reasonably balanced. The simplest way, in advance of playtesting, is simply to total up a ship's existing Defense points and multiply them by 5, perhaps adding more if the SP is dramatically lower than the HP. This is particularly relevant with larger ships - as a consequence of shields having no Armor, even a few measly A-Wings can chip away at a Star Destroyer's shields (though actually destroying the ship is another matter!)

However... there is one issue I'm struggling with, one that has its roots in the fact that I'm actually homebrewing for a custom setting - not that I don't love Star Wars, but I'm a pathological worldbuilder and I've been working on this particular setting for much of my life, so naturally I want to see if Edge of the Empire can be adapted to fit it. Unfortunately, sometimes the setting can be more... technical and nuanced than what the ruleset accounts for. One example is that I've been toying with the idea that physical weapons like missiles and mass drivers aren't blocked by shields (an idea I got from the Star Wars video game Empire at War), but that these have their own defenses that counter them... at which point it's likely easier to just use the Defenses stat (or use Shield Points), rather than trying to balance several different types of weapons and defenses. EotE is a roleplaying game, not a war simulator, and the beauty of the system is that it does away with the nitty-gritty and lets players and DMs focus on the world and the story. At least, that's how I feel about it.

Disregarding those issues, though, I still want to see if a "Shield Points" system can be made to work...

Edited by Dusk Raven
Didn't look over a particular sentence before posting...

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That sort of granularity doesn't do much for me. Starship combat is already so abstracted that adding additional bookkeeping isn't going to improve an encounter, in my opinion, it will just slow everything down (even more).

Shield points work better in tactical-simulator rulesets, I think. FFG's narrative system isn't improved by adding that sort of crunch.

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2 hours ago, SFC Snuffy said:

Shield points work better in tactical-simulator rulesets, I think. FFG's narrative system isn't improved by adding that sort of crunch.

What's the difference between "that sort of crunch" and the current hull/strain points?  I don't see any, and the current system carries none of the flavour in the media.

Since they went for crunch, I'd have preferred some kind of power management.  You have a power plant rating of X, which can push a hull rating of Y around at base speed Z.  Excess power can be used to increase speed, power up shields, bring weapons to max charge, etc.  Then you could shift the beans around, kind of like the old X-Wing video game...eg: your shields take a beating, so you slow down to milk the excess power to boost them up again.  Or you try to escape, putting all power to the engines but letting the shields and weapons slowly die.  With a few tokens and a good reference sheet for your ship it could be easy to manage...maybe a top view of the ship, with tokens on engine, shields, and weapons...  A side benefit is that it could make ship mods more interesting.  Another side benefit is it would allow for more consistency when spec'ing out a ship and its cost.

But in the meantime, a buffer like Ahrimon suggested would be my preference.  Although I'd probably reduce the buffer (4/2?), but let it be rechargeable with a Hard pilot, co-pilot, or engineer check.

 

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27 minutes ago, whafrog said:

Since they went for crunch, I'd have preferred some kind of power management.  You have a power plant rating of X, which can push a hull rating of Y around at base speed Z.  Excess power can be used to increase speed, power up shields, bring weapons to max charge, etc.  Then you could shift the beans around, kind of like the old X-Wing video game...eg: your shields take a beating, so you slow down to milk the excess power to boost them up again.  Or you try to escape, putting all power to the engines but letting the shields and weapons slowly die.  With a few tokens and a good reference sheet for your ship it could be easy to manage...maybe a top view of the ship, with tokens on engine, shields, and weapons...  A side benefit is that it could make ship mods more interesting.  Another side benefit is it would allow for more consistency when spec'ing out a ship and its cost.

As soon as I started reading about that, I instantly thought of the X-Wing series. X-Wing Alliance was one of the first Star Wars video games I played (at age 8 or 9!) and it saddens me that a Star Wars game of similar impressiveness hasn't come out in some time... however, I'm not sure such technical complexity would fit here. One thing I've noticed is that the simpler the rules are, the easier it is to focus on the world and the roleplaying.

Regardless, I agree that simply adding Shield Points isn't that much more complex than what we have. The only disadvantage it has is that it's different. I will say that i think the current system of having a Defense rating sort of fits with the films... but the films barely discuss shields at all, and when they do bring them up they tend to be inconsistent. Starships take hull damage on every hit, suggesting that shields merely reduce damage, but at the same time the shields of a Droideka render them invulnerable to small-arms fire. While having shields act as setback die is similar to Star Trek (which I'm also a fan of), having them be a separate "health bar" is the route most SW video games go with. Hence I associate that approach with Star Wars more than the "shields as damage mitigation" approach.

Edited by Dusk Raven

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My hotshot was saved, many, many times by his ships shield (defensive driving for the win). Those 4 extra blacks can make all the difference between getting hit from a battleship's turbolaser or narrowly evading and thus negating all damage. The dice system is build in away that you even can see each case of the shields making all the difference. If anything, I would have preferred black dice doing about 50% more. Basically removing 2 of the blanks on the dice.  That's basically my only issue with black dice in general, they could be having more paint on them. They have already impact, but you need to roll of fist full of them to make them reliable. 

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6 hours ago, SEApocalypse said:

My hotshot was saved, many, many times by his ships shield (defensive driving for the win). Those 4 extra blacks can make all the difference between getting hit from a battleship's turbolaser or narrowly evading and thus negating all damage. The dice system is build in away that you even can see each case of the shields making all the difference. If anything, I would have preferred black dice doing about 50% more. Basically removing 2 of the blanks on the dice.  That's basically my only issue with black dice in general, they could be having more paint on them. They have already impact, but you need to roll of fist full of them to make them reliable. 

That might be something to try, actually: have setback dice for shielding take away 2 success rather than one.

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On 6/6/2018 at 9:56 AM, SEApocalypse said:

Those 4 extra blacks can make all the difference between getting hit from a battleship's turbolaser or narrowly evading and thus negating all damage.

My inner geek is failing me.  A shield provides 1, maybe 2 setback.  How do you get 4?

 

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8 minutes ago, whafrog said:

My inner geek is failing me.  A shield provides 1, maybe 2 setback.  How do you get 4?

Defensive driving, shield re-balancing & boosting shields, etc 

Defense 4 is the gold standard in starship combat. If you are having less, you screwed up, even with a starting character, except for when you are in a TIE-Fighter. 

Edited by SEApocalypse

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4 hours ago, SEApocalypse said:

Defensive driving, shield re-balancing & boosting shields, etc 

Defense 4 is the gold standard in starship combat. If you are having less, you screwed up, even with a starting character, except for when you are in a TIE-Fighter. 

Even with a starting character? Given that it takes 50 XP to get Defensive Driving as a Pilot, that's a scary thought. I don't like the thought of needing to spend almost half my starting XP (and that's if I'm playing a Human) on a particular thing...

Another reason to use Shield points, I guess. As you mentioned, setback dice are only consistent in numbers; shield points are almost guaranteed to be useful if you're hit...

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7 minutes ago, Dusk Raven said:

Even with a starting character? 

Take a ship with at least 2/1 shields, re-align the shields and shield boost. Tada. 4/0 shields, as you can decide which arc you get hit with sub-sil 5 ships, you will get attacked onto that front arc and get the full 4 setback dice of defense. No defensive driving required. does not work in a TIE-Fighter, because those don't have shields to boost or re-align. No shields, all guts and defensive driving for those pilots. ?

Edited by SEApocalypse

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34 minutes ago, SEApocalypse said:

Take a ship with at least 2/1 shields, re-align the shields and shield boost. Tada. 4/0 shields, as you can decide which arc you get hit with sub-sil 5 ships, you will get attacked onto that front arc and get the full 4 setback dice of defense. No defensive driving required. does not work in a TIE-Fighter, because those don't have shields to boost or re-align. No shields, all guts and defensive driving for those pilots. ?

I was thinking more something like an X-Wing as far as the craft in question. Not a lot of starfighters with 2 in a defense stat. Heck, even a YT-1300 doesn't have that, and that's something EotE players can start with and is thus something they're likely to have as a group. Mind you, at least with the freighter you have other people on board who can use actions...

Edited by Dusk Raven

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32 minutes ago, Dusk Raven said:

Mind you, at least with the freighter you have other people on board who can use actions...

X-Wings and Y-Wings have astromechs who can boost the shields or just watch your back as well. :)
Watch your back adds at the bare minimum another point to your defense, though if you are running with PC Astromechs a more likely result is 3 to 6 points of extra defense. It's a real shame that the defense cap applies to this astromech check, it somewhat lessens the mech + pilot combo at later stages of the game. 


edit:
Having one of the best action economies of all fighters is one of the reasons why the starting Y-Wings are so good. Even a starting crew of a pilot, gunner und astromech can shoot, shield boost and watch your back in a single turn. Master pilot adding another action at about knight level on top. :)

Edited by SEApocalypse

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13 minutes ago, SEApocalypse said:

X-Wings and Y-Wings have astromechs who can boost the shields or just watch your back as well. :)
Watch your back adds at the bare minimum another point to your defense, though if you are running with PC Astromechs a more likely result is 3 to 6 points of extra defense. It's a real shame that the defense cap applies to this astromech check, it somewhat lessens the mech + pilot combo at later stages of the game. 


edit:
Having one of the best action economies of all fighters is one of the reasons why the starting Y-Wings are so good. Even a starting crew of a pilot, gunner und astromech can shoot, shield boost and watch your back in a single turn. Master pilot adding another action at about knight level on top. :)

I'm not familiar with the "Watch Your Back" thing, I can't find it in the core rulebook...

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1 minute ago, Dusk Raven said:

I'm not familiar with the "Watch Your Back" thing, I can't find it in the core rulebook...

Stay on Target, Astromech actions. Average computer check, each success adds +1 to one defense zone. NPC Astromech will have an automatic success on one action for 3 advantages spend by the pilot and will provide will do an automatic assist to the pilot. 

Edited by SEApocalypse

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11 minutes ago, SEApocalypse said:

Stay on Target, Astromech actions. Average computer check, each success adds +1 to one defense zone. 

I should have guessed.

...It's perhaps worth noting that I don't have much practical experience playing the game, although I do intend to do a lot of playtesting, what with all the homebrew content I've gotten or am working on...

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On 6/6/2018 at 6:24 AM, DarkHorse said:

https://rpg.rem.uz/Star Wars/FFG/Misc/FFG Space Combat - House Rule - Shields.pdf

Too bad this file doesn't list an author but it seems like the kind of thing you are looking for.

Just started playtesting a variation on these rules.  Modified the shield points per original Def rating to 2 and a half times Sil (probably modifying to 2xSil after first session), Defensive Driving provides SB as normal (only limited by # of Talents).  Tricky Target replaced by Barrel Roll (with modification of +/- Handling....can't suspend disbelief enough to think you could Barrel Roll a -4 Handling ship as easily as a +3) and Brace for Impact maneuver (from Genesys, though been using Snap Roll for a long time now from GMPhil).  Hits can still critical, even if the shields absorb it all (represented by things still popping, fizzling and catching on fire even if the shields are still up)

Worked really well my table thought. Really felt more like the movies than having to shoehorn a descriptive of a hit that wasn't REALLY a hit, but kind of bounced off the shields but......

 

YMMV, but I think these will be at our table for a time to come now.

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I don't know if this is a good idea, but what if you just treat Shield points as extra armor points that you can move around? Very simplistic.  

Ships like the YT1300 (base) could stack up to 5 armor + shields in one zone with the "Angle Deflector Shields maneuver and up to 6 if you are boosting shields. A TIE fighter shooting at that with only 1 base success would then only inflict 1 HT damage.  The same would be true for an x-wing (except it would probably need the astromech to do the shield boosting).  Weaker ships would need missiles or torpedoes to smash through that.

A TIE would be unaffected since it don't have shields. 

Doing it like this increases a ships survival a lot if you can control the direction you are being attacked from and take the time to manipulate the shields, which seems to be in line with what we see in the movies. 

Its also faster to play and easy to remember.  

To this I would add a possibility to spend 2 Advantages on an attack to overload the shields. They can be brought back in default configuration with an Average (PP) mechanics check as a Crew action, modified by any critical hits.  

Additionally, I would rule that shields wont help against Ion weapons unless specifically modulated to protect against that at the expense of all protection against energy weapons. Modulating shields is a Easy (P) Computer Crew action.  

As I wrote it i'm starting to like it more an more. I'll try this in my game at first opportunity. 

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7 minutes ago, GM_loke said:

I don't know if this is a good idea, but what if you just treat Shield points as extra armor points that you can move around? Very simplistic.  

Ships like the YT1300 (base) could stack up to 5 armor + shields in one zone with the "Angle Deflector Shields maneuver and up to 6 if you are boosting shields. A TIE fighter shooting at that with only 1 base success would then only inflict 1 HT damage.  The same would be true for an x-wing (except it would probably need the astromech to do the shield boosting).  Weaker ships would need missiles or torpedoes to smash through that.

And our modified C-ROC would have like 11 Armor, before we strip the hull and add extra armor to get it to something like 14 or so iirc ?

 

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27 minutes ago, SEApocalypse said:

And our modified C-ROC would have like 11 Armor, before we strip the hull and add extra armor to get it to something like 14 or so iirc ?

 

11-14 with this rule you mean, stacking Armor and Shields?

Sure, In one defense zone. If someone gains the advantage on you they will hit you where your shields can't help.
What if someone hits you ship and shorts out the shields like I described above and then their wing-man is free to attack unimpeded? 

Also worth noting is that my rule of extra armor would replace the Setback dice completely, so you can't count on them for additional protection.  

To your point, I'm not sure that my proposal would scale well to capital ships. Especially when Mods are so powerful. I have to think more about that. But for Silhouette 1-4 I think it could work well.

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