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S&S 6: Why I Cannot Finish Reading the Fleet Battles Rules


Skull & Shackles


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Page 66: "A flagship cannot be damaged or sunk during a fleet battle..."

No. Seriously. NO. If you build your ruleset around something that stupid, you need a new ruleset. I don't care how abstract it's supposed to be.

Qadira

Pathfinder Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Lol, well without having read anything about fleet battles yet, and recognizing the total "out of context " nature of your post, you certainly DO seem to make a good point.

I am curios for the justification behind such a rule though, there has to be another side to the story right?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:

Page 66: "A flagship cannot be damaged or sunk during a fleet battle..."

No. Seriously. NO. If you build your ruleset around something that stupid, you need a new ruleset. I don't care how abstract it's supposed to be.

Um, your flaw is my feature. I LIKE that rule, it means you can finish the fleet battle with a climactic showdown. The rules look like they work fine, and if it really bothers you that much change it.


Pro : makes for a fun finishing fight

Contra : utterly unrealistic, be it tactically (concentrate on healers and leaders first) , ruleswise (let's put the UNSINKABLE out front as our point of contact) or even historical

Go, tell the French and "L'Orient" ( Battle of Aboukir) or "Bucentaure" (Trafalgar ). Seems like those battles will have to be refought for serious rules violations by the Royal Navy^^

But knowing my group, they will seriously teleport over to the Wormwood first thing, and eliminate Harrigan and his crew. We can have the fleets fight it out after that


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:

Page 66: "A flagship cannot be damaged or sunk during a fleet battle..."

No. Seriously. NO. If you build your ruleset around something that stupid, you need a new ruleset. I don't care how abstract it's supposed to be.

Um, your flaw is my feature. I LIKE that rule, it means you can finish the fleet battle with a climactic showdown. The rules look like they work fine, and if it really bothers you that much change it.

I think the "climactic showdown" idea is probably correct. Also keep in mind that the fleet combat rules are extemely abstracted (the ships don't even move in relation to one another during the battle), and just because a flagship isn't "damaged" (in battle terms) during the course of the fleet battle die rolls doesn't mean the ship has remained completely unscathed.

Spoiler:
By the Fleet Battle RAW a flagship like the Wormwoodcannot be damaged or sunk, but in the text describing the results of the PCs victory the Wormwood ends the battle badly damaged and trying to limp away. Now, however could that have happened? ;D

You're the DM, and you're in charge. The fleet battle rules are there to enable you to fairly quickly work through a major plot point that would require hours to resolve using any less abstracted a system. The rules are there to help you, not hamstring you.

During the fight tell the PCs their ship (or the enemy flagship) is taking some damage but not enough to seriously impair her fighting abilities, and then set the stage for the climactic boarding action between the two ships once the main battle is over. Don't let yourself be shackled (hur, hur) by either the RAW or the die rolls - use a lttle imagination.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This is a specific philosophical design decision because the flagship is where the boss fight happens.

It's not nearly as fun, in my opinion, to build up a bad guy for a long time and then have them get defeated in a fleet battle where you don't actually get to face that character. Nor is it fun for the PCs to be on their flagship and be defeated by a sub-game where their characters' actual stats have little to no influence.

The way fleet battles are supposed to play out—you play the fleet battle in order to GET to the flagship... which honestly doesn't even need to be in the battlefield at the time. It's kind of like the medieval general standing on a distant hilltop watching as the armies clash in the valley below.

Once the fleet battle is over, the victor gets to attack the flagship, in which case the climactic encounter can play out using the rules that everyone knows and that everyones' character is built by.

The fleet battle rules are intended to be VERY abstract—far more so than normal Pathfinder combat is. And they're intended to be fast and simple.

In any event, if you want the flagship to be part of the fight, the simple and easiest change is to simply require that a flagship play the role of one of the commodore's ships. Just be ready to have some anticlimactic boss fights or some sudden and unanticipated TPKs.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Seems to me that you never need to let the players know they can't defeat the enemy flagship and that theirs can't be defeated in the fleet battle. Just play it out. This more GM knowledge that as GM you need to make sure works out a certain way.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:


Page 66: "A flagship cannot be damaged or sunk during a fleet battle..."

No. Seriously. NO. If you build your ruleset around something that stupid, you need a new ruleset. I don't care how abstract it's supposed to be.

I don't normally read the AP threads (I don't use them) but this thread title caught my eye and curiosity. Just offhand, these rules are designed for an AP. Not a sandbox. Nonetheless many fleet battles revolve around getting to the enemy flagship. The battle could be seen as continuing in the background with the outcome hinging on the combat between flagships. A bit rail roady but it's an AP. Still, my knee jerk reflex conditioned by years of miniature battles and boardgaming is pretty much the same as yours. Use other rules if it bothers you. There are both miniature and boardgaming rules out there. To each, there own.


I haven't looked at the rules yet, but I'm concerned - we have a Master Summoner who's standard MO will be to cast Invisibility, Flight and then begin summoning hordes of fire and air elementals to start taking ships out of the fight... At 11th level with Superior Summoning that's going to be 24-48 Medium Elementals or 36-72 Small Elementals - all Augmented. Is there anything in the rules that will accommodate a game-changer like that?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

@Story Archer
One easy solution (though a bit deux ex machina) is that your summoner's elementals (or really, anything the PCs try to do to directly influence the fight) are instead tied up fighting the enemy's minions. Maybe they have some medium and high-level magic users on their ships as well - 1 high-level summoning tons of elementals for the good guys, several medium-levels summoning an equal number for the bad guys. Same thing if they try to fireball sails or the like.


fanguad wrote:

@Story Archer

One easy solution (though a bit deux ex machina) is that your summoner's elementals (or really, anything the PCs try to do to directly influence the fight) are instead tied up fighting the enemy's minions. Maybe they have some medium and high-level magic users on their ships as well - 1 high-level summoning tons of elementals for the good guys, several medium-levels summoning an equal number for the bad guys. Same thing if they try to fireball sails or the like.

Eh - I'd really rather not generically nullify what should be his moment of glory. What I'll probably do is say that it takes 4 Summonings the duration of their Summons to take a ship out of the fight - that's three ships over the course of the battle which could tip the balance but won't make or break the fight. I'll run him separately from the rest of the crew while he's not aboard ship and maybe have him deal with being magically sighted and then targeted by a ship's wizard or sorcerer.

I really want it to be a tough fight for them though - Sandara Quinn is/has been romantically involved with one of the players, but after the Captain's Regatta is departing for a pilgrimage to Besmara's throne. I expect the PC's will try to get word to her for aid in defending the Isle, but I'm going to leave them in doubt until her ships are sighted coming around the island during the battle. I'm going to play it up like they are additional reinforcements for Harrigan after the PC's seem to have barely be hanging on and then have her turn the tide of the battle.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

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I ran a session at PaizoCon that included, among other things, a version of the fleet battle from "From Hell's Heart," using the fleet battle rules. The system worked very nicely and we completed a major fleet action with between 40 and 50 ships *PLUS* a high-level boarding action combat between the two flagships all in the space of 4-5 hours and everyone had a great time with it. Here are some thoughts:

1. The "your flagship can't be attacked" makes as much LITERAL sense as "my character moves during the combat round, and your character can't do anything about that but stand still and maybe make AoOs, because otherwise you're frozen in time by the universe because it's not your turn in the initiative order yet." Don't get hung up on it. It's an abstraction like a lot of things in combat are an abstraction.

Your flagship is assumed to be right in the thick of the fighting the entire time. Your guys are fighting, their guys are fighting, it's all going on, but somehow by way of the Rule of Cool and cinematic Plot Armor, every time you think you're about to attack the flagship, some other ship gets in the way and takes the hit, or they veer off at the last moment and just take a glancing blow, shake their fists at you and keep sailing, or your shots clip a half-dozen red-shirted mooks on deck and just miss the captain, or the ship you thought was the flagship was actually a decoy ship. However you want to rationalize it or visualize it, just roll with it.

2. As James has said, the fleet battle rules are set up to enable you to have a fleet battle that is fun and interesting, while setting up for a face-to-face showdown with the main villains on board ship afterwards. If in your campaign players don't value the drama of getting to face their nemeses head on, then don't worry about it. Let em sink the flagship and sail away. Of course, if they never actually SEE the bodies...

3. As for the "my character has this one automatic win strategy," the fleet battle rules again abstract those kinds of things into "command boons" granted by the significant characters in the fleet. Most probably, your boon would end up being classified as Magical Artillery, which has the net effect of improving the attacks of everyone in the fleet as your elementals race around attacking the enemy.

4. Another point to note is that distance and time are completely abstracted in the fleet battle, so even effects that seem to cover a large area may not do much in the kind of wide-angle battle you get in a fleet battle. Most of the time you'll be lucky to get one ship or part of one ship in a spell.

That's if you're using the base rules. Here are some other suggestions, though:

5. When I ran the scenario, for each of the players (I had 2 playing the leaders from Cheliax and 4 playing pirate lords), have them run their own squadron. This ensures that everyone has something personally to do, rather than having the overall admiral running it.

6. Create for each significant character something unique that they can do. In my scenario, the Chelish admiral had made a deal with the devil (literally) and when a ship was sunk she could raise it back up from the depths as a zombie-crewed ship of the damned. This caused her negative levels (which became relevant later on in the personal combat) but brought ships back and made them negatively impact the Morale of enemy ships they fought. Another could shift his boon from round to round. The pirate admiral could try to force a parley with the enemy commander, which essentially prevented people from attacking for the rest of the Battle phase (or they could attack, but would take penalties and lose morale for breaking the terms of parley), and his side didn't have to roll during the Rout phase but the enemy did. Some of them had some particular magic items or abilities they could use to counter things the enemy would do. Another could switch command boons from round to round (he was a pirate who had the strongest squadron in the fleet but also had reason to betray the other pirates, and he could shift from mega-attack to light attack and do repairs each round).

This is a time to be creative, so bring it on.

7. As far as your elementals example, one of the pirate commanders in my scenario was a half-noble marid, and one of his abilities was to summon an elemental swarm. For his 'special trick' I had him basically be able to summon a separate squadron under his command that was made up of water elementals rather than ships. For creatures of sufficient size and battle-affecting strength, you can incorporate them into the fleet rules.

8. The last point is this: If you want to have your PCs bring their personal-level abilities into the fray, then you'll need to adjust the scenario to have the bad guys do it as well. The Chelish fleet is supposed to have armies of teleporting devils, but they play a certain prescribed role in the adventure, and that's mostly at the personal level. Groups of devils attack the PCs twice, and that's it. If you're going to have the PCs bring in THEIR army of summons, though, you have to assume that this tactic is fair game and have the Chelish bring in THEIR army of summons too.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander, so have your summoner summon up the legion of air and fire elementals, and have the PCs prepare to get bum-rushed by a legion of teleporting devils. You will have to logically extrapolate their capabilities in that regard. The adventure was written with the fleet battles in mind, so you can't say "Well, they didn't SAY there were any more devils than this." Sure. They didn't say it because they assumed you'd be using the fleet rules and these would be the only devils you'd NEED for the personal-combat part of things. There are plenty more implied/abstracted devils with the rest of the fleet.

TL;DR - The fleet rules do exactly what they're intended to do: provide a fun, easy to play naval battle that leads up to a confrontation between the PCs and the enemy leaders. If that's not your cup of tea, tailor them or use something else, but remember that whatever tactics you open up for PCs you should also open up to the NPCs, and you'll need to figure out how many the bad guys should have to respond in kind.


Jason Nelson wrote:
Another could shift his boon from round to round.

Shift its effect from one ship to another or switch between two different effects?

I'm still waiting on a response regarding boons over here.

The rules are a little unclear about how they are implemented round to round.

Osirion RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Boons affect either the whole fleet or one squadron, never just one ship (unless a squadron has only one ship in it). The rules stipulate that once a boon is chosen it cannot be changed without changing a significant character or decommissioning the flagship and starting over.

For effects that affect a single squadron can always affect a different squadron each battle phase.

In the case of my scenario, the one commander essentially had two "affect one squadron" boons that he could switch between each Battle phase (swift repairs and relentless advance). That's not officially legal, but it gave him an interesting option to play with.

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