New Starship Combat mechanics?


General Discussion

Grand Lodge

So, are the developers working on alternate tactics for starship combat?

i ask this for three reasons-
1> in Ashes of Discovery-

Spoiler:
The players fight a Besmaran Whelp that physically attacks the ship
; theoretically, a ships guns should not be able to fire at that range. Where are some means to protect against such tactics- or even weaponry for literal ship-to-ship combat- like hull spikes?

2> in the Dead Suns AP i'm in, the player with a Goblin Technomancer was the best pilot, and he decided to RAM into an opposing ship during our first combat. GM and another player had to look for makeshift ramming rules.
Is Ramming ever going to be considered a viable tactic?

3> I'll be running Into the Unknown, and the combat versus

Spoiler:
the Corpse Fleet ship
could potentially be circumvented with a daring enough pilot, and a GM willing to reward creativity.
Any possibility of in-combat Boarding rules to be brought

I'm thinking it would make for an interesting campaign to commandeer a ship before X happens- so that would require computer checks to hack the cargo bay to grant access to a pilot. granted this would have to be against larger ships.
or opposing vessels launching drill pods that harry the ship with infiltrators.

I'm mainly curious to see if the Development team is working on new rules for tactics, to make combat more interesting than just cat'n'mousing.


Quote:
theoretically, a ships guns should not be able to fire at that range

...because....?

Quote:
and he decided to RAM into an opposing ship during our first combat.

Player decided to do something there are no rules for. Therefore new rules are coming....?

Starship combat is avoidable by adventuring is not new rules for starship combat.

Sczarni

Developers use existing rules as a Framework for writing adventures.

Designers make expensive handbags create the actual rules.

Important difference.

The Society teams are made up of Developers (you can see these tags next to their names).

So this would be the wrong Forum to speculate about new rules.

If you have a specific question about how to handle a player's creativity in a given scenario, I'd suggest asking it over in the GM Discussion Forum.

If you find that players are making up rules, you can either make a ruling that rewards creativity for that adventure, or you can check the Rules Forum and see if there's anything you missed on how to handle it.

Luckily Starfinder is really good at giving GMs leeway for player creativity:

If presented with a "ramming" option, for example, and the whole table is on board with the idea, I'd personally probably inflict a random critical hit on both ships (unless there is an actual rule for this already; Starship Combat is still one of my weakest rules areas). This would alleviate the dreaded "I'm sorry, you can't do that because there aren't any rules for that" without giving the choice a mechanical advantage that could be abused.

Alternatively, I might have the ship's AI voice down that proximity sensors will prevent unintended collisions if most of the table isn't excited at the prospect.

If presented with a "boarding" option in the middle of Starship Combat, I'd personally probably explain that the turn-based sequences are simply an abstraction of what's happening in-game and that the two ships are never actually still long enough to "jump aboard".

If presented with a player wanting to upgrade the hull of a ship, I'd personally probably handle it as the Society taking their suggestions under advisement and possibly include that character's name in the eventual credits for future Starship design.

But I wouldn't expect the next GM I run across to rule the same way in any of these cases, and neither should the player.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Society Developer

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One thing I would like to highlight here, is that while Organized Play generally uses the rules from our printed products, sometimes we like to introduce new mechanics into scenarios. Many times, these mechanics take the form of specialized scoring systems or scenario-dependent tracking for various objectives. Sometimes, we also like to use scenarios as a method of exploring different rules.

Don't be surprised to see us try out a random thing here or there in an attempt to see how a style of mechanic might work. Starship Combats are no exception, and I suspect as time goes on, the campaign will be more and more interested in trying to "spice up" combat encounters with some unique rules every once in awhile. I know there's at least one scenario coming up in the near-ish future that includes a very contained rule for starship combat that hasn't been used in another product.

Hope that clears things up a bit! :D


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
Nefreet wrote:


If presented with a "ramming" option, for example, and the whole table is on board with the idea, I'd personally probably inflict a random critical hit on both ships (unless there is an actual rule for this already; Starship Combat is still one of my weakest rules areas).

For ramming, I'd suggest something like the following:

- Have the ship trying to ram do a piloting check with a moderately high difficulty and much harder for a big ship than a small ship. If they succeed, it's a solid hit. If they fail, but are close it's a grazing hit. If they fail, they miss.
- Calculate the "closing speed of the ships." If they're going pretty much head on, it's A + B. If A is chasing B, it's A-B. If it's some other angle, you might do (A+B)/2.
- Calculate the "damage points" as 25-50% of the (starting) hull points of the ship actually (intentionally) ramming.
- If it was a solid hit, the damage is (closing speed + damage points)/2
- If a glancing hit, damage is (closing speed + damage points)/4

Note, this could cause massive damage, but that's what one should expect from two ships colliding at high speed.

For example, say you have a tier 2 Drake going speed 10 ram a ship head-on that's going 8. Closing speed is 18.

Damage points is 50% of the Drake's 55 HP, so 27.

If it's a solid hit, each ship takes 45 damage to the facing shield. That would almost cripple the Drake and possibly its target. NOT a tactic to be undertaken lightly, but if you're desperate ...

Jim

Sovereign Court

I think there will eventually be an "Ultimate Starship" book with a lot more depth into starship combat. Will probably take a year or two. And you'll probably see things that were featured before in SFS scenarios.

PFS occasionally piloted a mechanic that eventually made it into a hardcover, particularly the Influence rules for schmoozing people at parties.

The starship rules are clearly very... new. Pathfinder has a legacy stretching back to the 70s to build on; Starfinder is inventing some new wheels. Some of those are going to have sharp edges at first. I expect evolution.


Something useful and non repetitive for the captain science officer and engineer to do would be nice.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
Something useful and non repetitive for the captain science officer and engineer to do would be nice.

While repetitive, almost every time I was science officer or engineer I had something useful to do : get the shields up (engineer) or optimize the shields against our enemy (science officer.) The rest of the time I was making the weapons better.

Grand Lodge

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Something useful and non repetitive for the captain science officer and engineer to do would be nice.

Their actions seem just as repeatative as gunners and pilots, though the latter at least gets to chose from a list of maneuvers, but they’re still just making piloting checks


Bob Jonquet wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Something useful and non repetitive for the captain science officer and engineer to do would be nice.
Their actions seem just as repeatative as gunners and pilots, though the latter at least gets to chose from a list of maneuvers, but they’re still just making piloting checks

Agency: the ability to make meaningful choices that affect the outcome

Effect: what you do in the fight matters

The pilot has a lot of agency and a fair bit of effect on the fight. They ARE repeatedly making piloting checks. They are not JUST making piloting checks.

They are picking from huge list of maneuvers with different DCs and incomparable effects: you can't directly math out whether dropping a turn radius is better than +2 to your ac for the round. They position and turn the ship from round to round in a game of mini chess. Their choices are real and they matter. You can turn a damaged section of shield away from the enemy, or just set yourself nose to nose with them and blow each other away, or put yourself right in their flight path and force a flyby.

The gunners have a lot of effect but almost no agency. They shoot. Thats kinda it. If there's only one they might have an option to broadside, but even then you're going to want to avoid that -2 if you can with more gunners.

The science officer scan may help. After that they're not doing a heck of alot till level six where the +2 to hit is mechanically good, but but again, so good its the only real choice.

The engineer has a fair bit of effect (keeping the shields up).. but thats it. Diverting power anywhere else is such a small benefit that its not worth it to try overpowering everything.

The captain helps the biggest gun with a +2. (or demand if they're high enough level) Thats very little effect and very little agency. Yes, they can theoretically do other things but they're far less effective.


Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Bob Jonquet wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Something useful and non repetitive for the captain science officer and engineer to do would be nice.
Their actions seem just as repeatative as gunners and pilots, though the latter at least gets to chose from a list of maneuvers, but they’re still just making piloting checks

Agency: the ability to make meaningful choices that affect the outcome

Effect: what you do in the fight matters

The pilot has a lot of agency and a fair bit of effect on the fight. They ARE repeatedly making piloting checks. They are not JUST making piloting checks.

They are picking from huge list of maneuvers with different DCs and incomparable effects: you can't directly math out whether dropping a turn radius is better than +2 to your ac for the round. They position and turn the ship from round to round in a game of mini chess. Their choices are real and they matter. You can turn a damaged section of shield away from the enemy, or just set yourself nose to nose with them and blow each other away, or put yourself right in their flight path and force a flyby.

The gunners have a lot of effect but almost no agency. They shoot. Thats kinda it. If there's only one they might have an option to broadside, but even then you're going to want to avoid that -2 if you can with more gunners.

The science officer scan may help. After that they're not doing a heck of alot till level six where the +2 to hit is mechanically good, but but again, so good its the only real choice.

The engineer has a fair bit of effect (keeping the shields up).. but thats it. Diverting power anywhere else is such a small benefit that its not worth it to try overpowering everything.

The captain helps the biggest gun with a +2. (or demand if they're high enough level) Thats very little effect and very little agency. Yes, they can theoretically do other things but they're far less effective.

Certainly agency and affect are important. However, in the interest of speeding space combat, I think they could do away with some points of decision. For instance, they could effectively eliminate the captain's role because otherwise, you have to react to the possibility that he could jump in any phase.

I'd also suggest they change the situation where the ship gives a couple "pluses" that can be applied in different places. That creates another decision/discussion point that slows the game. It would be better if those pluses either applied to everything or just to specific positions.


Jim H wrote:
Nefreet wrote:


If presented with a "ramming" option, for example, and the whole table is on board with the idea, I'd personally probably inflict a random critical hit on both ships (unless there is an actual rule for this already; Starship Combat is still one of my weakest rules areas).

For ramming, I'd suggest something like the following:

- Have the ship trying to ram do a piloting check with a moderately high difficulty and much harder for a big ship than a small ship. If they succeed, it's a solid hit. If they fail, but are close it's a grazing hit. If they fail, they miss.
- Calculate the "closing speed of the ships." If they're going pretty much head on, it's A + B. If A is chasing B, it's A-B. If it's some other angle, you might do (A+B)/2.
- Calculate the "damage points" as 25-50% of the (starting) hull points of the ship actually (intentionally) ramming.
- If it was a solid hit, the damage is (closing speed + damage points)/2
- If a glancing hit, damage is (closing speed + damage points)/4

Note, this could cause massive damage, but that's what one should expect from two ships colliding at high speed.

For example, say you have a tier 2 Drake going speed 10 ram a ship head-on that's going 8. Closing speed is 18.

Damage points is 50% of the Drake's 55 HP, so 27.

If it's a solid hit, each ship takes 45 damage to the facing shield. That would almost cripple the Drake and possibly its target. NOT a tactic to be undertaken lightly, but if you're desperate ...

Jim

I like your suggestion and agree that ramming is a desperation move, and it should be even harder to do if the ramming target has any functioning thrusters. I would describe it to the players that you are likely sacrificing your ship If you are less than 2 size categories larger than the target. Also, any weapon facing the attacker should get a defensive attack as if they are "point" category weapons, and any "point" weapons should operate at a DC 5+the speed difference between the ships. Point weapons put out a net of lasers or a cloud of flak in hopes that some of it will destroy the incoming missile, if the incoming "missile" is as large as a ship, then much more of that net or cloud should hit, which is why I'd make the base of the DC 5 instead of the normal DC 10.

I also suggest that ramming be similar to the Flyby stunt, a push maneuver, so the attacker must have thrusters that are undamaged or no worse than glitching. If the ramming ship has an advantage in maneuverability and the target's thrusters are wrecked, then each step of better maneuverability that the ramming ship has should decrease the DC of the stunt by 5, with a minimum DC of 5 + 1.5*the ramming ship's tier. If the ramming ship has a disadvantage in maneuverability and the target has an thrusters left at all (malfunctioning or better condition), then each step of worse maneuverability that the ramming ship has should increase the DC of the stunt by 5.


I'd also further suggest that if the target of the ramming has the higher piloting roll (meaning they haven't taken their piloting turn yet), then they can try to "save" against the ramming by successfully performing the "evade" stunt. Each point by which the ramming target exceeds their evade DC is used to increase the DC of the attacker's ramming maneuver. If this is enough to change the ramming attack into a failure, then the target is not rammed and escapes, moving as per the evade stunt rules. The attacker's ramming attack is then treated as a failed Flyby stunt.


Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:

The science officer scan may help. After that they're not doing a heck of alot till level six where the +2 to hit is mechanically good, but but again, so good its the only real choice.

The engineer has a fair bit of effect (keeping the shields up).. but thats it. Diverting power anywhere else is such a small benefit that its not worth it to try overpowering everything.

Science Officer’s first priority is the ship scan. After that, targeting systems wipes out any patches the other sides enginerr may have put in place. Once you have hit a system, you generally want to continue hitting that system. They can also rebalance the shields, which may be better than diverting power depending on the situation.

Engineer really hopes they can divert power, it is bad when they have to spend time on patches or quick fixes.

On smaller crews, the Engineer and Science Officer are often the same person switching positions.

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