Space battles subgame


General Discussion


After reading a little bit about the hex-based space battles subgame, I have my first reservations about SF.

I hope there isn't too much focus on space battles. I enjoy Federation Commander (which this system sounds similar to, but simpler), but I don't like the idea of switching over to a different style of game in the middle of my RPG. A lot of this depends on how they roll it out in the AP. If there are encounters that show a hex-based space battle map, and which -require- that kind of subgame, I may not be interested.

What I like about RPG's is the fact that there are many solutions to a problem. In the games I DM, we flow fairly fluidly in and out of combat. I worry that the space battles will require a very set turn-based structure (which I'm already seeing with phases/turn) that will limit roleplay opportunities and creative ideas in a turn. I could be wrong though.

Some of my favourite SciFi roleplay times were back in the day with Star Frontiers. We often owned /stole space ships, but combat was rare and when it happened it was resolved quickly enough that we didn't need to switch to long periods of tactical wargaming. Often, the difference between ship classes made it the outcome obvious, so it only required a display of power to end the fight (kind of like in most historical naval engagements).

I still have high hopes but a twinge of uncertainty now...

One thing for the designers - check out Space Empires and its expansions by GMT games. Lots of neat ideas for ship customizations, tech trees, and interactions between technologies there. The designer is releasing a tactical game (called Talon), which sounds simpler than Star Fleet Battles / Federation Commander...


Our group used to play the Mechwarrior RPG, then switch to Battletech rules for the mech combat (all the PCs were mech pilots). That worked reasonably well, it was a fun game, but yes there was a major disconnect between the role playing part and mech combat.

Although now I think about it, some players strongly preferred one over the other (role playing versus mech combat) so perhaps a bit of variety isn't such a bad thing. I am curious to see how Starfinder handles ship combat, but I don't think it is necessarily a problem if ship combat is treated very differently to other parts of the game.


I guess my issue is that it means two different game systems need to appeal for me to like the game. Higher chances it won't appeal if one system doesn't interest me.

There is some discussion about the space combat system (at least the alpha version) in another thread. From what I recall, it's hex-based; there are multiple phases per turn; and different ships can turn a different number of hexsides per move depending on their maneuverability.


Coffee Demon wrote:

I guess my issue is that it means two different game systems need to appeal for me to like the game. Higher chances it won't appeal if one system doesn't interest me.

There is some discussion about the space combat system (at least the alpha version) in another thread. From what I recall, it's hex-based; there are multiple phases per turn; and different ships can turn a different number of hexsides per move depending on their maneuverability.

What do you think of the current Pathfinder rules? The core Starfinder rules are likely to be very similar to those. Personally I find the Pathfinder rules to be too complex and too abstract. I would prefer simple abstract rules like World of Darkness or complex but realistic rules like GURPS.

I hope that the starship combat is simple and quick to resolve.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder already had quite a few "sub" games aside from its ground combat system. The Chase mechanic, (card or otherwise), Social combat in the form of the deck or the rules in ultimate intrigue. and others..

But I can see a hex base sub game being a huge part of Starfinder since it seems like they want to get the feel of characters working together in shipboard and ground situations to be equally important.

Pathfinder has what is really an good personal combat system, whose relative simplicity balances out it flaws. That same ground combat system should be a great basis for Starfinder's personal combat system.

But now we want to have all the characters to be involved in a ship / multi-passenger vehicle combat. What we don't want this to be is a "OK the pilot and gunners have their fun, and the rest of us grab a snack" time. While we don't want to tie up days of real time playing out a vehicle combat that would take seconds or at most minutes, (much like star fleet battles..) but a simply orthogonal movement system with a single movement score, a single pool of hitpoints, and no real "facing" mechanic, doesn't seem like something that can be expanded to allow every character on a ship have the ability to affect its performance in combat.

The thing that makes pathfinder combat so interesting in many ways different classes and creatures can affect the battlefield. One way of allowing this, without increasing complexity catastrophically, is switching to a hex based movement and facing system. (in some ways manuerver and range calculations are easier on a hex map. Think about how different skill checks like acrobatics (piloting), stealth, or knowledge checks can translate into actions you can make from a starship. How those things might give you more options that just going pew, pew pew and blowing up enemy ships with a die roll or two...

other than direct combat, two examples I can think of..

Think about how a crew could have a navigator plot the movement of an asteroid field, while the astrophysicist can tell you which rocks are better to hide behind, while the pilot is making his check, and someone is playing with your electronics to make you look like just another rock or hole in space..

Or with some space monster is chasing you, your xenologist figures out that is only chases ships to which one of its young somehow got attached. Now you got the pilot doing some fancy maneuvers to not get grabbed and destroyed while flying around the monster so the xenologist can figure out where to put the baby "back", while part of the crew is out on the hull trying to coax the beastie off at the right moment and the engineer is trying to keep power flowing to the right places since the same beastie is "chewing on the power cables"...

(i'll definitely have to check out that other thread..)

(and just for the record, I could be way off base as I haven't made the time to really go through the Starfinder forums...)


Yeah i wanna agree it sounds similar to the army combat rules and honestly i've never had those rules make for a fun game.


For Reference, here is what's been said about the space subgame, complete with references (thanks to Archmage Variel for putting this together):

-Every player has an important part in combat (3)
-Has been described as battletech/spelljammer (1)
-Upgradable ships to act like a separate character sheet shared by the party (3)
-"Star Trek Inspired with sprinkles of Firefly” (5)
-Choice of class has no effect on ship role, each ship role has a single skill that influences it (5)
-New actions are unlocked with additional skill ranks in the relevant skill (5)
-Ship combat is done “tactically” on a hex grid, and direction the ship is facing matters, very different from normal pathfinder combat (5)
-Divided into three “phases”: engineering phase, piloting phase, and gunnery phase (5)
-Each phase happens simultaneously and is resolved among all ships before beginning another phase (5)
-All damage happens simultaneously (5)
-Piloting: Initiative check: going last was better; a higher roll meant going last so you could react to what everyone else was doing. (5)
-Ships have a maneuverability rating number: the number of have you had to move before you could turn the ship one tick on the hex axis (5)
-The ship has different arcs, or sides, with different stats but only one hp pool (5)
-When the ship hits a damage threshold or is the target of a critical hit, you have to roll to see if a critical system was damaged (5)
-Combat requires a lot of communication, you start understanding only what class ship you are fighting (5)
-Can take an action and a minor action each turn (5)
-Some ships have computers that can help by attempting skills, not as proficient as players, some ships can be piloted by a single individual (5)
-Ship combat is two dimensional but moving through opponents is possible, factoring in 3D (5)
-When your ships hp reaches 0 your ship is disabled, when it reaches 100% your ship explodes so get to the escape pods (5)

References:
1. http://www.nerdunion.us/2016/08/06/27837/
2. http://geekandsundry.com/interview-with-the-creator-of-starfinder-pathfinde rs-sci-fi-sister-game/
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQzjmVujY5U
4. http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2tp2c?Ask-Gallant-James-S-Enduring-Owen-and-Bel oved
5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViouD1C4gTk


Boomerang Nebula wrote:

What do you think of the current Pathfinder rules? The core Starfinder rules are likely to be very similar to those. Personally I find the Pathfinder rules to be too complex and too abstract. I would prefer simple abstract rules like World of Darkness or complex but realistic rules like GURPS.

I hope that the starship combat is simple and quick to resolve.

I personally think the Pathfinder rules could be simplified by a notch. They are saying the difference between PF and SF rules will be similar to the difference between 3.5 and PF. So no big structural changes.

Without straying too far off this thread topic... I agree, Starship Combat should be simple and quick to resolve. I have never been a fan of subsystems in a RPG, and it seems like a risk to rely too much on something like that in a game. I can't think of any RPG I played that relied too heavily on a subsystem. If it had a subsystem, I just ignored it. I hope that's possible here as well.

I could be wrong though, and I'm willing to take a look regardless. Only thing is, if it relies too heavily on a different subsystem, it's not just be that needs to be convinced, but all my players (who have similar RP backgrounds as I do).


Coffee Demon wrote:
I could be wrong though, and I'm willing to take a look regardless. Only thing is, if it relies too heavily on a different subsystem, it's not just be that needs to be convinced, but all my players (who have similar RP backgrounds as I do).

The thing is they really need this subsystem to be big and well developed for all the people who do want it. It's easier for someone who doesn't like the system to cut it out rather than have someone who does want space battles come up with it on their own.

Look at the three main inspirations that keep popping up in interviews. Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly. Space battles play a very important role in both Trek and Wars, and while Firefly's Serenity isn't exactly built for combat the ship is very important to the story.

Finally, I just listened to Know Direction's recording of the Gencon Starfinder panel, and from the sounds of it one of the lead designers had a huge interest/focus on space battles, while another one had no real interest in them, and had all his focus on the ground based "classic" RPG combat. Their "compromise" was the classic "Why not both?" and so both forms of combat will be completely fleshed out.

You should have a listen if you haven't already, and have the time.


I would like for the core spaceship rules to be simple and then have the equivalent of an "Ultimate" book for spaceships where they can make space combat more complex (and with more options) for the hard core fans.


I really have to disagree. For a setting in space to not be well integrated with its space combat from the start is just begging for disaster.

If it's rather straightforward without any real transition other than "well right now scale is X meters per hex" or the like, then things go well, and you don't have to wing it and demand rules potholes be filled up like bad Quebec roads every time there's something as simple as the party fighting a turret across a hull as they try boarding.

The more "transitioning" there is, the more disconnect you'll have and the more we'll find adventures, GMs and groups as a whole dropping the least supported of the two - and there WILL be a least -supported in such cases.

If it gets to the point where it's almost two completely different games, then you seriously have to consider "why are we playing this and not that" for both of the games the system(s) is(are) trying to pretend it(they) is(are).

Heavy Gear just x10s the vehicle stuff compared to people (you do 1/10th the damage, they do 10x, and so on), so you can have pilots trying to smash open an enemy cockpit and get in (very very unsafe, the other guy has a mech, but it CAN be done). Meanwhile, Edge of the Empire, your stats (even your piloting 85% of the time) other than gunnery don't actually matter or apply, and you MAY as well just use the better balanced X-Wing minis tabletop system for your space combat. That's not good.


Jamie Charlan wrote:

I really have to disagree. For a setting in space to not be well integrated with its space combat from the start is just begging for disaster.

If it's rather straightforward without any real transition other than "well right now scale is X meters per hex" or the like, then things go well, and you don't have to wing it and demand rules potholes be filled up like bad Quebec roads every time there's something as simple as the party fighting a turret across a hull as they try boarding.

The more "transitioning" there is, the more disconnect you'll have and the more we'll find adventures, GMs and groups as a whole dropping the least supported of the two - and there WILL be a least -supported in such cases.

If it gets to the point where it's almost two completely different games, then you seriously have to consider "why are we playing this and not that" for both of the games the system(s) is(are) trying to pretend it(they) is(are).

Heavy Gear just x10s the vehicle stuff compared to people (you do 1/10th the damage, they do 10x, and so on), so you can have pilots trying to smash open an enemy cockpit and get in (very very unsafe, the other guy has a mech, but it CAN be done). Meanwhile, Edge of the Empire, your stats (even your piloting 85% of the time) other than gunnery don't actually matter or apply, and you MAY as well just use the better balanced X-Wing minis tabletop system for your space combat. That's not good.

I'm not totally clear on your point. You begin by saying integrated space combat rules are a necessity, then you follow up by describing how it's impossible to make it work.

For what it's worth, I've played Star Frontiers (a lot), Star Wars (two systems), Traveler, Robotech, and a space campaign of TMNT, and never once found a need to shift to a different combat subsystem. I don't want to be forced into shifting gears once space combat starts, and I don't want APs to force me into a bunch of tactical space battles where my players aren't roleplaying and thinking of outside the box solutions to problems.


Lost in Limbo - thanks I'll take a listen to that podcast.


I said that the more separate the rules are between "ground" and "space" the less the system works for such a setting.

I didn't say "integrating them is impossible" at all; I was explaining how the more disconnected(not integrated) the two are the more likely space travel will be just an abstracted "you got there fine / you got boarded its a fight / nothing happened" handwave for most.

My entire *point* was that having to shift gears would be bad, and that separating the system with some cheapo version in the main book and a more complete version later several years down the line would almost certainly cause that problem.


Jamie Charlan wrote:

[snip]

My entire *point* was that having to shift gears would be bad, and that separating the system with some cheapo version in the main book and a more complete version later several years down the line would almost certainly cause that problem.

Ah, I see. I agree. Except...

From what I've heard (just listened to the Know Direction podcast as well) there will still be a shifting-gears, even though the space combat system is part of the core rule book. The turn structure is completely different than normal combat, with different phases, detection levels, wanting lower initiative, simultaneous damage, and specific skill checks depending on your characters specific role on the ship.

Could be that they're working on ways for this to flow alongside normal
Combat though. First step would be to have the same number of seconds per combat round I guess...

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

"Choice of class has no effect on ship role, each ship role has a single skill that influences it (5)"

I hope it's addressed what we do for PCs that have none of these skills, unless every skill in the game contributes somehow. Or what we do if there is duplication. I know my group is going to make a party based on concepts they have, not on having a balanced ship crew. So we may end up with three pilots or none.

Because somebody is going to make that PC who only has academic Knowledge skills and nothing else. Or a 7 Int Klingon expy that only knows Intimidate and Climb.


Well unless you've got ten thousand people in two warring clans of shrinking genepools in charge of reloading every individual cannon kilometers away from the bridge, s&!@ happening fast is probably just fine for ships as well.


ryric wrote:

"Choice of class has no effect on ship role, each ship role has a single skill that influences it (5)"

I hope it's addressed what we do for PCs that have none of these skills, unless every skill in the game contributes somehow. Or what we do if there is duplication. I know my group is going to make a party based on concepts they have, not on having a balanced ship crew. So we may end up with three pilots or none.

Because somebody is going to make that PC who only has academic Knowledge skills and nothing else. Or a 7 Int Klingon expy that only knows Intimidate and Climb.

I get the sense that

(1) Everyone is going to have the skills; some will just be better than others, and

(2) Each class is actually designed to work in the ship combat system, so "PC's having none of these skills" isn't a possibility.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Playtested Starfinder ship combat at Gencon with the Paizo crew. My impression - it was fun! it was fairly quick, with not a lot of downtime between taking actions, which I've seen in other RPGs where the party members take on various roles within the ship.
I'm more of a hard-sci-fi fan, so I'm not yet sure about the fantasy/sci-fi mash-up it appears to be looking like. But I'm excited to see the overall rules set.


Edmond Bass wrote:
Playtested Starfinder ship combat at Gencon with the Paizo crew. My impression - it was fun! it was fairly quick, with not a lot of downtime between taking actions, which I've seen in other RPGs where the party members take on various roles within the ship.

Good to hear!


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Having played MANY games sci fi rpgs that had varied amounts of integration of Star ship combat, particularly in a certain galaxy far far away a long time ago, I would say that the approach they are taking is an excellent one.

WAAAAY too often you get situations where space ship combat is only interesting for 'the pilot' and everyone else is either making an uninteresting dice roll each turn, or actually doing nothing. Its next to impossible to have ground characters perfectly transition into space unless they have a whole second set of abilities, which is generally an issue, because not every game or story emphasizes space combat.

This is particularly important in a class based system. IE pathfinder. If your class has space combat abilities, then they are wasted when on the ground, and better then everyone else when you are in space. If your class doesn't have space combat abilities, you are SOL in spaceship encounters and subjected to a sideshow.

For example star wars saga edition was basically a d20 system with star wars stapled on. Unless you specifically take space combat options, you don't have them. And they only applied in space.

The solution? In the space ship book they gave alternate forms for lots of abilities that functioned in space. The also added feats that let people do cool space ship stuff on par with force powers (spells). It worked ok, but if you were say, an axe swinging wookie warrior. This didn't help you much and you were still relegated to hanging out during space combat, and the pilots still had lots of unused abilities during the ground scenes.

In my group we decided eventually that everyone would literally have 2 characters built separately, one for the ground, and one for space, just so everyone could actually participate all of the time.

I would be absolutely stunned if I ever saw a class based rpg that had unified rules for ground and space combat that actually worked well and kept everyone engaged in both situations.


You'd basically (though this would be limited by the usual class balancing issues) have to give special space abilities to each individual class, allowing them to be different and/or stack, while still being useful. It CAN be done, just that usually it'll be done terribly (the fighter gets 'weapon training' with A ship gun, while the cleric gets to metamagic every ship action and can repair it without costing hundreds of thousands of gold-uh-credits).

There's also the issue that various ship roles CAN be an entirely valid character concept. Just as in your examples, plenty of people can want to be good "at space", making things like pilots, captains, and so on. It can feel just as restrictive or outright stupid for some dedicated navigator to also have to be a level 12 barbarian because his job apparently has nothing to do with his growth as a character!

There's also fighter-pilots: If one's abilities are too far behind in smaller vessels, it forces the oft-boring-for-most-of-the-group 'naval' style battles even further. But what happens when you only have one role, and you'd need 3-4 to be effective on your own? Although at least maybe a role could be just this and offer what's needed when not onboard a capital.

One way or another if there's feats, abilities, etc that are space-only - and there's not really any reason not, it would suck not to - then there will always be the problem of whether things are balanced around having them or not, whether if things were too careful to make them not necessary and they're as worthless as +1-to-two-skills trash feats, or whether they change too much and offer too much power such that not taking them is a suicidal or 'selfish' act, and so on.

It's a lot of work and pagecount, but ideally many abilities should have ground and space value; spacecleric gets turn undead AND turn highly-explosive-homing-femurs, bard inspires crew as easily as partymembers, and so on and so forth. Of course, the real hassle comes in making sure everyone is indeed worth having on the ship: it would be far, far too easy to say "metamagic and spells function through mana-amplifiers for ship scale no problem" while utterly leaving the monk completely incapable of doing /*&%all (at the least they could've made his slow-fall count against damage suffered in a crash, damnit!)

Alternatively, if all's separate it's doable as well, but every class, race, etc has to offer at least something to space...

OR...

We have a Character/Spacerole gestalt.


Kolokotroni wrote:

This is particularly important in a class based system. IE pathfinder. If your class has space combat abilities, then they are wasted when on the ground, and better then everyone else when you are in space. If your class doesn't have space combat abilities, you are SOL in spaceship encounters and subjected to a sideshow.

They did a good job a reusing common skills. Piloting doubles as any vehicle control, BAB works for gunnery, engineering for building, traps, repair ship functions, diplomacy or intimidate for captains, computers for the science officer. Most well rounded groups of 5-6 characters will be able to cover all of these, even if its not their primary. I'd be a little surprised if many don't have someone with full level ranks, class skill bonus and max or near max ability mod for each primary skill. Piloting, BAB Eng, Comp, Dip/Int.

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