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ThreeAM

Astrogation Failure

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The skill section under Astrogation in the CRB (p104) indicates how to spend Successes, Advantage, threat, etc; everything except failure.  So my question is this: Do I let a failed roll just fail and then they'll have to keep trying until they get it, or do I let them "Fail forward" where a failed roll means they succeed but it takes longer. The rules indicate additional successes reduce the jump time by 1 round, so my thought is that failures just increase this time (fail forward).

The obvious question here is what does the plot require?

  • Do they HAVE to get away?= fail forward. 
  • OR if I am interested in what other solutions the players might come up with to deal with a failure= straight fail.

The context of my specific example I will be facing shortly: There will be a chase scenario through a Space debris field by a large ship with a tractor beam chasing the players.  So its a duress roll. Personally I am leaning toward fail forward, which is generally how I run my game. My plot is flexable and I don't really NEED them to get away or have them tractored,  but i'd rather not have them just sitting there having to roll astrogation several rounds in a row until they either A. get tractored, B. succeed, or C. just win the chase. That sounds boring.  One thought I might add was if they fail the first Astrogation I require them to then fix the mcguffin (mech check, but make it easy) and then the next astrogation roll can fail forward. That might strike the balance between tension and success.  

Thoughts on how you guys might handle it?

Edited by ThreeAM

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I have a general formula for space encounters.  There's always debris and the object isn't to dogfight the way out, it's to get to a location where they can jump away, hide in the debris, or lose themselves in the planet features below.  The default # of turns it takes to get to the target point is X (3 or 4 is a good default).  Piloting rolls can reduce or increase that, which means more or less time spent shooting and/or fending off the enemy and, more importantly, fending off critical hits.

For the "jump away" option, once the astrogation point is reached there is only one roll:

  • Despair:  the nav-computer is fried, or will be.  If they failed, they're going to get tractored unless they have a backup plan; or maybe they jump away but are dead in space.  If they succeeded, wherever they end up there's a nasty complication..."remember those pirates you shot up last session?  You emerge from hyperspace into their fleet."
  • Failure:  they aren't going where they thought they were.  This opens the door to any number of side-quests and is handy for resolving any kind of plot thread the GM chooses.
  • Success:  they get where they are going...
  • Advantage:  ...in record time, or whatever is useful to the party
  • Threat:  ...but it takes longer, or something fails along the way.  I'm a fan of crits on enough Threat or Despair though I might subtract 20 just to keep it from being too onerous.
  • Triumph:  could be anything, including the discovery of a faster/better route, worth credits to the right buyer, etc.

 

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Not commenting on your table specifically, but I do see Astrogation checks being called for (much) more often than I call them myself. If there are no real consequences for failure (meaning, situations where you can just try again) I see no need for a check most of the time. Unless the nav computer is failing somehow, it should either give you a solution or tell you the parameters you entered don’t work out. If you let it finish the attempt, you know whether it was successful before you make the jump. Ergo, if you do fail there are two options - you jump anyway and risk ending up somewhere you didn’t want to go or possibly dead; or you don’t jump and presumably try again. It then follows there’s no reason to make the check unless there are consequences for failure (for instance, if you need to retry during combat all the time you need to finally succeed is time you’re being shot at - that’s definitely a consequence) or unless the party wants to try for Advantages/Triumphs for some reason.

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30 minutes ago, whafrog said:

I have a general formula for space encounters... it's to get to a location where they can jump away....

For the "jump away" option, once the astrogation point is reached there is only one roll:

  • Success:  they get where they are going...

I also always treat space battles as chases with debris. (I got this from you and others originally I think ;) ). Okay, blandishment aside, Question:

Once they "win" the chase only then they get to make an astrogation check? and then do you treat a successful astrogation as instant jump? or do they then have to wait the required rounds based upon their silhouette?  It sounds like you forego the silhouette/rounds thing altogether?

If that's the case I would be somewhat somewhat inclined to agree. Since it was the chase rounds that provide the tension; not the silhouette countdown. Waiting around a couple rounds after a chase to jump seems moot since the tension is over. 

I was initially thinking about how to make a case for the Silhouette countdown rounds being the dramatic tension counter, but I think it'd be harder to control as a GM and possibly fall flat, because what if they succeed on the first turn with 4 successes, and instantly jump. Chase instantly over, no tension there. In order to make sure they don't jump turn one I feel like I would artificially have to inflate the difficulty of the astrogation check, and then lower it to reasonable levels after they are "safe" ( i really dislike the idea of making difficulty high because I want them to fail) 

 

So I guess I am asking which should fill the role of tension, the time to target point? or Silhouette countdown? because I am having trouble accommodating both.

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3 hours ago, ThreeAM said:

 So my question is this: Do I let a failed roll just fail and then they'll have to keep trying until they get it, or do I let them "Fail forward" where a failed roll means they succeed but it takes longer.

Generally it's seen as an impediment to fun to have to keep rolling the same check, and often one will read that GMs shouldn't place binary obstacles in front of the players that mean the story grinds to a halt if there's a failed roll.  I feel like those both apply here and I'd likely do as you suggest and "fail forward" - although I use that technique sparingly because without uncertainty or dice it's all just make-believe. 

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What I have done in the past is (depending on the narrative situation) done a descending difficulty roll at the start of every round. If the gang is under heavy fire and making a tough jump, then it starts off as daunting and loses one difficulty every time they roll the dice. Success on any of these means they jump away, but it shows progress and lets them have a "despite all odds" moment if they get on the first try. The narrative behind it usually goes on as unrelated, ie: they fail with disadvantage, and so the computer system takes more power and makes the next piloting check have a disadvantage.

It's worked rather well so far, and it keeps the situation tense so everyone doesn't truly know when they will jump away to safety or, if they succeed with a lot of disadvantage, if they'll make it to safety at all.

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It really depends upon the specific results of the roll. If it's just a straight up failure, sure, re-roll. IF it's a failure with Advantages or Triumphs, definitely allow a reroll with benefits. If it's one with Threats or Despairs, that's where things get tricky, and a re-roll might not be allowed, depending upon the severity of the Threats rolled. A Despair and you're screwed

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1 hour ago, themensch said:

I'd likely do as you suggest and "fail forward" - although I use that technique sparingly because without uncertainty or dice it's all just make-believe. 

I should add that sometimes failure adds to the story, so I don't always presume that the action will grind to a halt over a single roll.  I would imagine that "hyperdrive is broken" noise is the perfect narration for a failed astrogation roll.  One might argue that it's a stretch for a failed brainpower roll to be caused by some other piece of tech, but hopefully the table isn't that pedantic. 

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You might just make the Astrogation roll a number of successful checks instead of a number of successes. 

You might use the same modifiers to the piloting roll on the astrogation roll. Same number of upgrades and setback dice. Say it is modifiers due to the ships wild manuvering causing difficulty in the astrogation. Then say as soon as they make three (or so) successful pilot checks and the same number of successful astrogation checks, they get away. If they have too many failures on one or both, then they get captured

 

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Really when you think about it, all rolls made for Astrogation are technically under duress because if you aren't  you've got all the time you need working with the navicomputer. There definitely could've been some examples of narrative failure included in the CRB though.

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This may not copy over well, but below is my table of spending Astrogation results in my Vehicle Ops series. My astrogation rules are changed from RAW (uses distance for determining difficulty) and my sources for results I believe were from one of the RAW expansion books, my own creation, and RebelDave's Operational Costs. I don't exactly recall now, but you might find another source similar to this? I interpret failure as the jump hasn't been made yet. Yes, this means rolling again which takes more time. But, I also use house rules where trying failed actions increases or possibly upgrades the difficulty of the next try, so it becomes increasingly more interesting.

Table 6: SPENDING ASTROGATION RESULTS

 

Cost

 

Options

 

a

Character adds  b to next Astrogation attempt on this route.

aa

Smooth trip – everyone aboard recovers 2 Strain.

x or aaa

Reduce travel time by 25%. This option may only be selected once unless trip is upon Sector Trade Route (twice maximum) or Galactic Trade Route (thrice maximum).

x

Shortcut discovered – b on all future Astrogation attempts on this route and data could be sold.

t

Character adds b to next Astrogation attempt on this route.

 

 

Energy surge from hyperdrive causes 1 Strain to ship.

tt

Rough trip – everyone aboard receives 2 Strain.

 

 

Hypermater leak. Anyone attempting to track ship gains b until average Mechanics checks for repairs. Leak may not be obvious.

ttt or y

Upon exit, debris strikes ship for 1 Hull Trauma and a Critical Hit.

 

 

Mass shadow forces ship out of hyperspace somewhere along the route.

 

 

Increase travel time by 25%. If upon any route, may only be selected once.

y

Mass shadow forces ship out of hyperspace somewhere along the route and hyperdrive receives moderate damage – inoperable until repaired.

yy

Starship collides with a mass shadow, is forced out of hyperspace prematurely, and suffers a Critical Hit at +30 (struck by something) or the ship arrives plummeting towards a planetary or stellar body. If shadow jumping, this affect may be activated with only one y.

Edited by Sturn

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36 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

I think a PDF with suggestions would suffice.

I think a second edition would require alot less courtroom battles to come into existence. 

I mean the court case would get really dramatic then someone would make a joke and spoil the whole thing :)

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Dude! Dont get your reality all over my joke!

To be honest tho, I dont think we would see a big PDF with suggestions simply because the amount of effort to do that would be enough of the way to a second edition or a revised edition that they would just go ahead and try to sell us a new book. It would be alot more than a 2 page errata

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So, interesting one.

First, in general, a good rule of thumb is not to make a roll that has no risk.  If there's no penalty for failing an Astrogation check, there's not much point in rolling it, and it can jar to the players out of the game to fail a check and then suffer no consequences for it.

Second, having to roll again is not, in and of itself, a risk.  Unless there's a severely high difficulty, and so the dangers of Despair and Threat causing damage to the ship (or whatever) are present, just re-rolling over and over again is boring and pointless.  Now, you could say that failure means they simply can't make the jump - no re-rolls allowed.  Which would be a very severe consequence...but also probably derail your game quite a lot.  And it's not very Star Wars-y.  So, generally, for an ordinary jump, I don't require an Astrogation roll.

However...that's not what you're describing here.

You're talking about a chase scene.  Failing to jump away has very real consequences!  At worst, the PCs can get captured or killed, but even without that they might suffer additional damage to the ship, or to themselves, as they attempt to flee.  Assuming you're using the RAW Chase Rules (or something similar), I imagine this will be structured play.  Which means that failing, and having to reroll, doesn't sound boring to me at all!  If you allow a single Astrogation check per round (I'm not sure if that is RAW, but it certainly feels about right), then a failure means the PCs having to survive for a whole new round.  During which there could be asteroids!  Blaster fire!  The tractor beam!  Mechanical failures!  Mynocks!  Pirates!  Black holes!  The end of the galaxy!  Anything could happen...

OK, that got slightly out of hand.  My point is that failure here absolutely has a consequence, and rerolling after a failure isn't inherently boring.  But you do have to enforce those consequences.  Make them being captured a genuine risk.  Make the asteroids actually damaging.

Also, what I will say is that it might be good to present options to the PCs; you'll likely end up with one PC stuck in the Astrogation check anyway, but if you have other tasks that also need high intellect - Mechanics, Computers, Medicine - then your high-Int PC will have to decide where they are most useful.

Anyway.  Those are my two cents.

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6 hours ago, korjik said:

Dude! Dont get your reality all over my joke!

To be honest tho, I dont think we would see a big PDF with suggestions simply because the amount of effort to do that would be enough of the way to a second edition or a revised edition that they would just go ahead and try to sell us a new book. It would be alot more than a 2 page errata

I don't think it would be alot of effort, particularly if it's just suggestions and examples on a pass through of the Skills.  Throw a doc together, have a current playtest look at it, take like a week imo.  Without going into details in playtests the devs were always receptive to suggestions of the inclusion of gray boxes to give some guidance on things in the sourcebooks.  

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21 hours ago, ThreeAM said:

Once they "win" the chase only then they get to make an astrogation check? and then do you treat a successful astrogation as instant jump? or do they then have to wait the required rounds based upon their silhouette?  It sounds like you forego the silhouette/rounds thing altogether?

I wasn't aware of the Silhouette countdown, but it sounds like I'd have dispensed with it...as with so much else about how space is handled in this game.  It's one of these arbitrary slap-together rules that has no basis in the media:  there is nothing in any movie or show that says bigger ships need more time.  Instead, they are always trying to get to a jump point without being blown to bits, and they have to face the right direction.  The Rebels show is pretty clear about this.

The way I've structured it, the Astrogation roll becomes the climax of the action, and part of what leads up to that is finding out if they can get to the target point in as few turns as possible.  So there is tension in every other roll:  piloting gets you there faster, shooting and jamming keeps the pressure off, etc.  If you then had to wait four rounds for the Falcon to jump *after* you got where you needed to go, it would be anti-climatic, not to mention probably lethal since all the ships seem to be made of paper.  Note that the rolls leading up to Astrogation could provide needed boosts and upgrades (the pilot got the facing just-so, the shooter cleared a path), whereas if you do it first there's no synergy.

You could flip it and do Astrogation first.  Then you know how many turns you need to stay in the clear/functional, but I think like any countdown that becomes a grind.  The piloting rolls give varying results, so you never quite know when the moment will come, and it leaves the party praying for sooner.

One side point:  getting from point A to point Jump can easily be replaced with "getting the latest coordinates from BOSS", or some other timing issue.  The signal could be faulty or the enemy is jamming. Then Computers and/or Mechanics (or even Knowledge <region> or Lore) could be used to vary the number of turns required, instead of Piloting.  The basic formula is the same, it just has a different veneer and gives other PCs a chance to shine.

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7 hours ago, edwardavern said:

If you allow a single Astrogation check per round (I'm not sure if that is RAW, but it certainly feels about right), then a failure means the PCs having to survive for a whole new round.

This treats Astrogation as "making the hyperdrive work".  I don't think that's what the skill is for.  It's simply to plot a path*.  The failure is whether the path will cause problems, not whether the hyperdrive kicks in.

* sure Astrogation can be used for other things:  general knowledge of space lanes, trade routes, general sector information, etc.  I just meant in the context of the encounter.

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21 hours ago, ThreeAM said:

or do they then have to wait the required rounds based upon their silhouette?  It sounds like you forego the silhouette/rounds thing altogether?

Where is this rule ?

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12 minutes ago, Darzil said:

Where is this rule ?

I looked in the CRB, but to be honest I couldn't find it. I was basing it on a fan made player action sheet I got on these forums that I hand out to my players to remind them what they can do on their turn.

 

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Some really great suggestions all around, and Obviously MANY different approaches. 

Just as a quick note, I remember a discussion on the forums a while back about how far do you need to be from a planet to jump, but couldn't find it. The summary was this; you need to get clear of the planet's gravity well to jump, thus justifying a couple turns before you can jump. I realized in a way that is what I doing (keeping them from jumping turn 1) so I kept that in mind. 

I have been thinking a lot about what I want to get out of the encounter in general and I decided that I want the scene to be one of overcoming obstacles. I have 3 players and I see each one as getting their own obstacle to overcome in the scene. The objectives: Pilot=don't crash into stuff, gain some distance on pursers. Co-pilot=angle the deflectors and get us outta here! (Astrogation). Gunner=keep the fighters off us.  In an ideal world they would blow up the last fighter, win the chase, and jump all in the final turn as a climax (doubtful it'll be that smooth)

To facilitate this, below are some of my ideas incorporating suggestions above.
1. The astrogation check difficulty can change. Difficulty is affected by elements the other players can modify. Base diff, Duress, Taking Damage, debris field, etc.  (This is technically RAW! Table p247)

  • Base Difficulty: 2P, plus +1Blu (they are trying to get to Point nadir, a hidden comet constantly changing coordinates, but get a boost because they've been there before)

2. Each range band the pilot gains, the difficulty decreases. Coincides with chase range bands, chase starts at short and ends with extreme, which is 3 range bands, so +3 Difficulty

  • Figure with the competitive pilot check and speed difference (4vs2) they'll clear this in 2-4 rounds.

3. Fighters buzzing around dealing damage, therefore destroying them reduces difficulty.  So +1 Difficulty

  •  With 2 fighters and only 1 gunner, I think they'll clear this in 2-3 rounds.

4. For Debris, I am thinking this just adds setbacks, and can be cleared in probably 3 rounds.

  • Either keep at +3 until they get out or maybe start at +3 and decrease as the they make it out.

 

So the overall idea is this. As each person completes their objective, it makes the Astrogation check easier, thus they accomplish their goal (escape) as a team. It would start as a Impossible(6P) with 3 setback(3blk) and as each person completes it'll ultimately get to just Average (2P). Success on Astrogation means they successfully jump, no additional count down.

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29 minutes ago, ThreeAM said:

To facilitate this, below are some of my ideas incorporating suggestions above.

4. For Debris, I am thinking this just adds setbacks, and can be cleared in probably 3 rounds.

 

I snipped a fair bit here but I wanted to see if you could find ways to add more Setback dice to the other players' checks - I like to do that instead of just increasing difficulty (although I'd do it like you did here) so that the players can use Talents to remove them.  The scene you describe seems like it contains ample opportunities for both Setback and Boost dice, I just let the players come up with good reasons for the Boost. 

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