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elirrocks

Simplifying space combat rules?

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Hello! I plan on running a SW RPG game in the near future and I have a bit of a question.  My plan is to run a game with the feel and tone of the old X-Wing novels.  The problem I face is that I had some bad experiences with the space combat rules in the past.  A majority of the games I have run with this system all handled space combat really badly.  Since I really don't wish to focus on space combat and more of action thriller stuff like the Wraith Squadron trilogy is there any rules that you guys can recommend? In know there are a few fan rules out there but I don't care for them to much.  My main thought is just to ignore the space combat and have it in the background during key moments.  

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You want to run a game with the feel and tone of the X-wing novels, or Wraith Squadron, but you don't want space combat.

 

That's like going to a restaurant and ordering a steak dinner with no vegetables, no bread, and no meat.

 

Compared to a LOT of other systems (at least, systems with *some* semblance of realism), this system already has pretty simplified vehicle combat rules.  What exactly is it that you have an issue with?

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Wraith Squadron had a huge amount of infiltration missions and a lot less space battles compared to the Rogue Squadron Trilogy.  I don't mean to get rid of ALL space combat but I definitely don't want it to be the main focus.  My problem is that it isn't clear on a few things.  The overall problem though is players not understand the rules and claiming its too complicated.  The First Space battle I ran the players really didn't understand the rules and just started flying their ships into the hangar bays and bridges.  That last example was partially my fault and doesn't apply to this to much.

While running several adventures the players just ignored a lot of the enemies because they couldn't be bothered.  Ultimately I don't love the rules for their lack of clarity(compared to ground combat) and players I have played with don't read the book in detail enough to bother focusing on it.    

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2 hours ago, the mercenary said:

I see. Well, I don't know man, I guess just houserule you some stuff. I don't see any problems with the current rules but then again, my players haven't gotten into many vehicle fights.

It typically plays out very differently from personal combat even though the system is very similar. The usual reason is that all of the PCs are often in one starship. This means that all of the eggs are in one basket and it doesn't help that damage control is far less efficient than stimpacks and Medicine. When PCs go down in personal combat, the rest of the group can either treat/revive them or overcome the enemy and then treat/revive them. With the starship, if it goes down, there's not a whole lot the PCs can do. Sure, the ship doesn't necessarily blow up, but the enemy can always keep pumping laser fire into them if that's their goal (and, realistically, sometimes it will be).

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9 hours ago, HappyDaze said:

It typically plays out very differently from personal combat even though the system is very similar. The usual reason is that all of the PCs are often in one starship. This means that all of the eggs are in one basket and it doesn't help that damage control is far less efficient than stimpacks and Medicine. When PCs go down in personal combat, the rest of the group can either treat/revive them or overcome the enemy and then treat/revive them. With the starship, if it goes down, there's not a whole lot the PCs can do. Sure, the ship doesn't necessarily blow up, but the enemy can always keep pumping laser fire into them if that's their goal (and, realistically, sometimes it will be).

 

I should probably spend some more time reading the vehicle combat rules. I will keep in mind what you have written.

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How you want to run things is of course up to you. I've heard some people had success implementing some of the changes Genesys added, so you might want to look into that.

 

Just some thoughts based on issues I've had:

Watch The Battle of Yavin and try and try translating it into game terms. Don't go overboard, make it as simple as possible (Biggs is a Minion, so is Wedge) and don't expect it to last more than 5 or so turns. Remember, Yavin is really the only full-length start-to-finish space battle in the films to date, so referencing that is kinda  a good way to get things into perspective.

Think about it from the perspective of a Movie director and not a Wargame designer. You don't need to worry about nitty-gritty details of who's going how many MPH in what direction most of the time. Where are the Tie Fighters? Flying around the Falcon within weapons range... that's all that matters, let the players actions and roll results determine what else is going on.

 Simplify the encounter first. I've noticed that while there's the temptation to set up a big complex encounter similar to how you set up a personal shootout. But... space combat actually shares more in common with the Melee rules. You (usually) don't start a Melee fight at long or extreme range, so don't start Space combat at that range either. Make it start off pretty close in, and make the range bandings HUGE. Don't waste time moving between range bands if you don't have to.

Don't drop everything down on the table as an actual functioning game piece. Unless that Star Destroyer is actually there to interact with the players, it's at minimum set dressing, at most an environmental effect. So you can say it's there, but you don't need to bother saying what its doing every turn. It's sitting there, maybe shooting at other craft, maybe not even that. How far away is it? Too far to matter to the players right now.

Always in motion the starships are. This is a weird thing to get. Range bands when talking starships are HUGE, so even just hanging out in the Close Range Band you're still moving about quite a bit. Also remember that that banding is only relative to other things. So two vehicles that don't Fly/Drive away from each other are still moving through space, just not in a way that

Add narration and detail as needed. If you let it, a Melee fight can easily become two guy standing there hitting each other with swords until one falls down. Same here. It's ok for things like Threat and Despair to move things around, or change the conditions of the battlefield. Just like you sometimes need to help push a lightsaber duel a little to get it to be more than a swing-fest, space battles need a bit more to be more than repeated gunnery checks.

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On 11/24/2018 at 7:43 PM, elirrocks said:

My main thought is just to ignore the space combat and have it in the background during key moments.  

I ended up barely using it, it's both tedious and overly lethal as written.  It's still fun to have some space events, however, if you make sure to do a couple things.  First, all space combat can be treated like chases.  The PCs should have a goal, like "get to the hyperspace coordinates" or "hit atmo and hide amongst the clouds" and they should be trying to do this within a few turns.  There should be terrain of some kind so that piloting roll is required to make progress from point A to B.

Second, beef up your PCs if they're all in starfighters.  You can add NPC "wingmen" who don't take actions, but provide +1 damage per shot and hull points to boot.  Or just double the hull points your PC's ships have.

Third, skip all those extra tactical maneuvers and actions, they are tedious and ineffectual and make little sense.  Also, skip the Speed stat, it's all about the Handling.

So let's say you decide that the PCs need 2-3 successful piloting rolls to get from A to B while flying through the debris of an old battle field.  They have to find the McGuffin, or scan the secret enemy base, or whatever, which requires a turn or two of "tractoring" or computers to scan, etc.  Then they have to bug out, which will require at least 2 turns to get clear of the debris.  Like any chase they need to make a piloting roll to make progress (though of course you can shift this up by allowing other skills, say Computers to scan for a better way through, etc).  If they get caught by the enemy, they might have a turn of combat, but they have to decide whether to shoot back or keep flying.  If they shoot back they're in a dogfight and make no progress.  If they turn and run they might make progress, but the enemy has a chance to keep up.

In this situation, given that all the other tactical stuff is removed, I'd allow Triumphs (or significant Advantages, say 4 or more) on a "progress" roll to allow a shot as well.  A double-Triumph might give them an extra "progress" leap.

This makes it much simpler, you just roll your narrative dice and work with those results rather than micromanaging evasions and speeds, etc.  Then you apply those results like any normal combat or chase situation.  If you get advantages you can apply boosts to yourself or your friends, or setbacks or even strain/hull damage to the enemy.

One other thing I added was a house rule called "Never tell me the odds".  The initiating pilot decides the difficulty of the next progress roll, including upgrades, and any following pilots have to roll against that as well (or they simply fall way behind).  However, failure is lethal, causing strain, hull damage, etc.  A great pilot who is desperate can surely lose a few TIEs among the asteroid fields...

 

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While looking for something else, I stumbled across this idea for making vehicle combat a little more survivable for PC's and tougher enemies.

 

https://thetrove.net/Books/Star Wars/FFG/Misc/FFG Space Combat - The Snap-Roll Action - Fragments from the Rim.pdf

 

*Hypothetically*, it looks good. And it makes it actually mean something when a character has 4 ranks in piloting.

 

I may try this out next time we play.

 

EDIT:

 

I also found this, which I haven't finished reading yet as of the time I'm posting this.

 

https://thetrove.net/Books/Star Wars/FFG/Misc/FFG Space Combat - Starfighters of the Adumar House rules.pdf

Edited by the mercenary

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5 hours ago, the mercenary said:

While looking for something else, I stumbled across this idea for making vehicle combat a little more survivable for PC's and tougher enemies.

 

https://thetrove.net/Books/Star Wars/FFG/Misc/FFG Space Combat - The Snap-Roll Action - Fragments from the Rim.pdf

 

*Hypothetically*, it looks good. And it makes it actually mean something when a character has 4 ranks in piloting.

 

I may try this out next time we play.

 

EDIT:

 

I also found this, which I haven't finished reading yet as of the time I'm posting this.

 

https://thetrove.net/Books/Star Wars/FFG/Misc/FFG Space Combat - Starfighters of the Adumar House rules.pdf

I've seen these rules before and I even used the snap and roll action rules a bit.  We didn't really end up using them that much as the party wanted to focus as much as they could on trying to wrap their heads around the core rules.  Though, I may take another look at them for the new game.  

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10 hours ago, whafrog said:

I ended up barely using it, it's both tedious and overly lethal as written.  It's still fun to have some space events, however, if you make sure to do a couple things.  First, all space combat can be treated like chases.  The PCs should have a goal, like "get to the hyperspace coordinates" or "hit atmo and hide amongst the clouds" and they should be trying to do this within a few turns.  There should be terrain of some kind so that piloting roll is required to make progress from point A to B.

 

I used stuff like this in the later areas of the mask of the pirate queen adventure.  It works well enough and its what I've been thinking of doing as it is simple, quick, and if done right: super tense.  I didn't do it right lol.  But it good to keep in mind.  

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I've had both good and bad experiences with the Starship Combat rules and at best I use the basic framework that FFG lays out.

I have learned that when all of the players engage in and apply the actions that area available, then starship combat can be quite enjoyable.  However, if you have players who won't understand the rules, then there isn't anything you can do to make them work. 

But that's true of ANY RPG.  This past 5 years, I've been involved with a group and when the 'casual' players refuse to adapt or learn new rules they will invariably drag the whole game down to a tedious grind as the GM tries to re-explain the mechanics again . . . and again . . . and I just QUIT out of boredom!  My goodness 'casual' pull the **** earbuds out of your head get off of your **** stupid phone!  Is that a **** gaming app you have open?  **** your stupid cat meme!

Sorry.  Still too soon.  :blink:

I think it was Happy Daze who mentioned an issue with the Damage Control checks.  I understand the limit of letting the PC's just fix damage as it comes in (as it mitigates threat of defeat too quickly) but limiting Damage Control to just one check ever is too limiting.

As a suggestion (Yes, I'm still thinking my way through these issues) I may consider treating each attack as a separate "wound" that can be "repaired" separately.  So if a ship takes a 6 point hit, the PC's could roll a repair check for THAT damage.  If they result in 6 or more to repair the damage then that hit goes away. However if they only repair PART of the damage, then the remaining damage stays until they can attend to those structural issues in port (per RAW).

That would give your non-combat players more stuff to do during a prolonged combat. AND make the game a little less lethal.  I'll have to check this out with my group.  (Yep new thought for me).

 

There are a couple of other things that I do for space combat.  First, I'm using the X-Wing mini's to show relational location.  On the plus side, my PC's are usually in a single ship, so that ship mini (VCX-100 usually) is in the center of the gaming mat and the other ships are placed around the ship as they maneuver.

Combat starts with the ships beyond combat range so that the PC's can decide how to initially react and maneuver.  This also gives the PC's a turn to "man battle stations."

And I've also studied real world aerial combat so ships move . . . like that.  TIE Fighters swoop in from beyond range, make an attacking pass, and generally spend a couple of turns racing by and circling around for another pass.

I do use Wafrog's techniques of giving the PC's "timed" goals and usually that's X number of turns to get to the hyperspace jump point.  That does remind me,  A particularly adept and elite squadron of Imperial Pilots kept messing with the jump to hyperspace by blocking the PC's ship by interposing TIE Fighters in front of the PC ship, while a pair of Alpha Starwings pumped Ion Cannons at the ship from behind in an attempt to capture the PC's.

So there is a lot of good advice, but I agree that you should consider modifying the rules as written to suit your groups' personal tastes.

I still don't have a good solution for shields yet.  I'm not satisfied with how they are handled with FFG right now, but I haven't come up with a better idea yet.

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I got around both irreversible damage and (important) ship vulnerability by allowing System Strain to be spent to mitigate 50% of incoming Hull Trauma, ported from personal combat rules that replace stimpacks. 

Houseruled Damage Control allows a decent replenishment of System Strain for mitigation, as well as other cool stuff using SS as a resource.

Finally, big props to @whafrog for eliminating Speed from rules. Fits much better in that Star Wars asks "Are your heroes in combat? Yes or no," and if they are, it's about how they pilot and how their ride handles.

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2 hours ago, Mark Caliber said:

I still don't have a good solution for shields yet.  I'm not satisfied with how they are handled with FFG right now, but I haven't come up with a better idea yet.

I like how they were handled in the D20 version:  kind of like extra Soak, but if you exceeded a certain threshold their Soak would go down, rinse repeat until they were gone.  Then you could spend actions or energy to buff them back up again.  Not sure what scale would work for this game, for star fighters it might be good to start at Soak = Armour + Handling or something, and damage exceeding 3 or 4 drops them by 1.

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1 hour ago, whafrog said:

I like how they were handled in the D20 version:  kind of like extra Soak, but if you exceeded a certain threshold their Soak would go down, rinse repeat until they were gone.  Then you could spend actions or energy to buff them back up again.  Not sure what scale would work for this game, for star fighters it might be good to start at Soak = Armour + Handling or something, and damage exceeding 3 or 4 drops them by 1.

 

Or any damage that exceeds Armor + Shields drops the shields by one for (amount of time/rounds/until repaired or Damage Control is done)?

 

I understand why they're handled the way they are, but it's been my experience that setback dice are mostly useless. Which is fine when it's "Add a setback to your Ranged Heavy due to the snow storm", but it makes shields and personal armor with a Defense score have almost no value. From my experience, anyway. I'm sure someone else has had a vastly different experience.

Edited by the mercenary
I need to complete a thought before hitting the button

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I like some of the ideas being presented.  Since I was planing this for a few months away I have some time to think.  I may change up my campaign idea entirely but in the end it was good to see some ideas.

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On 11/26/2018 at 1:28 PM, the mercenary said:

Random thoughts:

1) Next time I start a campaign, I'm going to be using the vehicle rules from Genesys (aka EotE version 1.5) as much as possible. Therein lays a tier 3 talent called "barrel roll", the formal incorporation of GM Phil's house rule. I'll probably allow anyone with the "Skilled Jockey" talent to use it to use it -- niche protection for piloting specs, but generously tied to a tier 1 talent since piloting specs are lackluster outside the cockpit.

2) Also, it's a bit of extra work, but if you build the PC's ship using the formal ship building rules, you'll probably end up with a craft which has more hull points than what's listed in the book for an equivalent stock ship, which is kind of important when all your eggs are in one basket.

3) Echoing above, anytime you have a space combat (really any combat) have a goal beyond "last ship standing" and narratively put a hard limit of 3-5 rounds on the action. If it's a chase, someone either got away in time, or they didn't. The goal was achieved, or it wasn't. Either way, you should transition to another kind of action scene (ships are boarded, forced to land, reached their goal, etc.), or the action ends (they escaped!) and downtime and/or a development scene beings.

Edited by Lorne

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