What do you think of the space combat in APs?


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Whats your opinion of the space combat in the APs?

From what I have seen so far most space combat in APs is a chance to earn more XP, but beyond that do not matter much. No matter if you win or lose the outcome is basically the same, maybe with slight alterations. The enemy disables you and is then driven off or you are forced to land and the adventure proceeds like normal with maybe an additional encounter after landing.

One one had it makes space combat easy to ignore if the group is not suited for it, on the other hand if feels rather disconnected.


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it can REALLY DRAG.

there's an encounter in Dead Suns, which was resolved, in i think 5 rounds. but it took us almost 3 hours to run.

after that nightmare experience, we resolved as a group to SHUT UP and let the pilot do the piloting, the engineer do the engineering, the gunner to do the gunning, just like it works in a traditional combat situation.

and we go through the starship combat really fast and its much more fun.

it's supposed to be cooperative, but if you go down that path, it takes ages as players start backseat driving.


Combat-wise, the better the guns, the faster and more interesting it goes.

Story-wise, yeah, didn't see one that matters that much yet - no party captured, no detours in an unexplored alien planet or anything. They could probably work something like that in a module rather than an AP.


We modified our ship to the point of trivializing ship combats, and it's good to me. The less the better.
I really find ship combat to be a chore more than fun gameplay. I would have prefered something similar to the chase rules for ship combats: No map, no repetitive and long turns, and place for every character to shine.


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We enjoyed space combat loads. It’s another game in the game. And you could not possibly have a future space sci-fi without space combat. My players take a Star Trek like approach to it and it also gives the players some RP opportunities so they can show off their technobabble in their various roles.


I think the only thing I would consider is adding multiple PC ships and balancing combat around them.

My PCs who play as the pilot and gunner have fun, and one of my players is plenty fine being an engineer or science officer. The other two find
space combat boring


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I love space combat, but realize that for some players, "getting stuck" as the engineer, science officer or captain can be kind of boring, everyone wants to *pew pew*. So I just let everyone take the Snap Shot action regardless whether or not a gunner is present and has acted. Speeds up combat and fulfills the need to *pew pew*


yukongil wrote:
So I just let everyone take the Snap Shot action regardless whether or not a gunner is present and has acted.

That is something to consider.


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yukongil wrote:
I love space combat, but realize that for some players, "getting stuck" as the engineer, science officer or captain can be kind of boring, everyone wants to *pew pew*. So I just let everyone take the Snap Shot action regardless whether or not a gunner is present and has acted. Speeds up combat and fulfills the need to *pew pew*

Great idea.


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Space combat has been great in our campaigns. It's been a welcome change of pace. In Reach of Empire, one of the space combats is critical to the adventure, so I'm not getting how they are getting looked at through a more critical lens than a XP-filler encounter.

As for "less meaningful" encounters, I'm really tired of low-/no-stakes encounters awarding more XP than a life-or-death encounter at a lower level, simply by virtue of being in a higher AP installment. If such encounters are just going to be XP-filler, there's really no point in tracking XP (regardless of whether it's Starfinder or Pathfinder).


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I think the space combats in Against the Aeon Throne were far more justified. Some of the Dead Suns ones had pretty peculiar motivations (for example - villains who want something from the PCs choosing to just fly away if they successfully disable the PCs' ship).

There were a few which definitely felt to me that they were just there because "it's time for something different". In Against the Aeon Throne, I think they meshed far better with the narrative - cutting them out of AP issues 7-9 would make the AP considerably worse, I feel.


In Dead Suns, there's a space combat I found kind of silly.
We were attacked without warning (I was captain, and tried to open discussion for no result), and once we won, we discovered the enemy ship was having some very important information to us.
First, we could have blow them up. But, more importantly, the guys tried to blast us, without warning nor discussion, and now we have to make some Diplomacy checks and stuff.
My True Lawful Priest of Lissalla was that close to explain them how she handles what she considered an act of piracy...


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SuperBidi wrote:

In Dead Suns, there's a space combat I found kind of silly.

We were attacked without warning (I was captain, and tried to open discussion for no result), and once we won, we discovered the enemy ship was having some very important information to us.
First, we could have blow them up. But, more importantly, the guys tried to blast us, without warning nor discussion, and now we have to make some Diplomacy checks and stuff.
My True Lawful Priest of Lissalla was that close to explain them how she handles what she considered an act of piracy...

That's fair. I can see that.

I think that's more an issue with encounter design than starship combat itself, however. Starfinder is still relatively new but sometimes the application of Pathfinder-dungeon-style encounter design doesn't really work as well for far future science fantasy. I'm hopeful that will improve over time and hopefully will also help improve starship combat encounter design as well.


Space combat has one very major difference with normal combat: It's either a flawless victory or a total party kill.
Also, there are no special resources you can use to "save the day" when a combat looks badly engaged. And you can hardly run away. It's win or die, period.
And, because you make less checks during a starship combat than a normal one, luck has more impact.
Finally, depending on the classes in your party, you can end up with half of the group being lame because they don't have a high Dexterity.
All these reasons makes it very dangerous to design a deadly starship combat in a module. You can easily have 20% of your groups who dies at it...

That's why most starship combats are designed not to be deadly, but it looks weird, like if starship combat was no real combat.


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Dead Suns is also the AP of "so hey, this is what you can do in this new game".
If it feels like there's stuff in it that serves little purpose beyond being there... It might be just that. "Look at what space combat is like early on.", "Look at it now, with levels under your belt and an upgraded ship! ", etc.

To the subject : my main issue is that for a science fantasy game, that is an entire - and so very important to the genre - part of the game that is entirely devoid of fantasy.

We now have mystical weapons since AtAT, and that's fine. But using a different number to shoot the same guns is not much, and not enough to satisfy me.
More to do period would be nice too.
Also, having ships be more than weapons platforms. There's more to do with them than merely fighting.
Not an AP specific issue though, and one easily fixed with a few additions in future books.
I'm optimistic, for once.

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I think "space combat is all or nothing win or lose" and "there's nothing else to do with ship combat but shoot people" are two faces of the same coin/problem.

You could for example set up a combat where the objective is not to vaporize the enemy, but rather to download data from a number of satellites while a swarm of small enemy ships try to destroy them. Each satellite contains some relevant clues and you're going to need a sufficient amount of them to know where to go later in the adventure, but there's enough clues that you don't need all of them. And they're not just "clue points", each of them also has some actual bit of story in them so every one of them that you download gives some information.

The science officer is busy trying to download data (and after getting it, getting new info on what the situation is really about), the pilot is trying to plot an efficient route because downloading data goes faster if you're close to the satellites, and the gunner is trying to destroy enemies to slow down the attrition rate. And if they can find the "index satellite", they can start making decisions on which satellite is most important to get.


SuperBidi wrote:

Space combat has one very major difference with normal combat: It's either a flawless victory or a total party kill.

Also, there are no special resources you can use to "save the day" when a combat looks badly engaged. And you can hardly run away. It's win or die, period.

This is probably the main problem with space combat. Combined with how disconnected the spaceship is from the rest of the game those are the only two possible outcomes with nothing in between.


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Ixal wrote:
SuperBidi wrote:

Space combat has one very major difference with normal combat: It's either a flawless victory or a total party kill.

Also, there are no special resources you can use to "save the day" when a combat looks badly engaged. And you can hardly run away. It's win or die, period.
This is probably the main problem with space combat. Combined with how disconnected the spaceship is from the rest of the game those are the only two possible outcomes with nothing in between.

Um, not even close. Per the SFCRB: "Hull Points: This is the total amount of damage a starship can take before it becomes inoperative. A starship with 0 Hull Points isn’t destroyed, though many of its systems are no longer functioning and it is no longer a threat to its enemies."

Now, for some encounters, that could result in ship destruction and a TPK just like any personal combat with monsters or enemies. It's hardly the binary choice being discussed, however.

Off the top of my head:
1) You can run away if your ship can maintain distance or increase distance over a period of time. Since starship combat and space travel contain hefty doses of abstraction already, a GM could say the encounter ends after a random or set number of turns. Even if pursuit is maintained over a long period, the PCs could be hailing any friendly/neutral ship for assistance, etc.

2) The ship is crippled and the bad guys leave.
2a - The PCs have to make field repairs to get moving again.
2b - The ship is a hopeless wreck. The PCs have to use escape pods which will take them to that mysterious planet...
2c - The PCs have to limp to an asteroid field, moon, or planet and gather resources to repair their ship so that they can resume their journey.
2d - The PCs are stranded in their crippled ship but their distress calls are picked up by an allied/friendly/neutral vessel that can either rescue them, tow their vessel, repair their vessel, or be hostile to the PCs where the PCs will need to try and take the new vessel.

3) The ship is crippled and the PCs plead/taunt/trick the bad guys into a boarding action. Personal combat ensues as the PCs attempt to board the enemy vessel to salvage needed parts, capture the enemy vessel, or capture enemy hostages to bargain for repair parts.

4) Allied reinforcements are detected en route and the bad guys leave before they can arrive.

If Hull Points = 0 = Star Wars ship explosion, then yes, starship combat is pretty binary. Fortunately, Starfinder isn't that way. You are no more limited by losing encounters than you are in Pathfinder or Starfinder personal combat. In fact, in many ways, you are less limited.

You're free to impose whatever limitations on a game/campaign/session that you like, but don't blame the game for imposing a limitation that the GM assigned.


When you have the Sunrise maiden with weird guns pointing all over the place it drags out.

Once you customize it a bit though you pretty much blow everything away in a round.

It also suffers from the same problem as spaceship combat. The pilot has all of the choices, the gunners have most of the effect, everyone else is just making the same rolls to be a small bonus to the gunner.


BPorter wrote:
1) You can run away if your ship can maintain distance or increase distance over a period of time.

Even with a faster ship, it's nearly impossible, as weapons can shoot at 10 times their range increment and we are speaking of 2 to 4 squares per round. Roughly, you need 50-100 rounds to run away, you're blown to pieces long time before safety, especially if you took a few shots before running away.

BPorter wrote:
2) The ship is crippled and the bad guys leave.

Why???

The ship is crippled and the bad guys finish it. They are bad guys...

BPorter wrote:
3) The ship is crippled and the PCs plead/taunt/trick the bad guys into a boarding action.

Why again? I'm the bad guy, I've won the fight, if I don't want to destroy the ship, I ask the crew to just hang outside while I board it easily. As a PC, I always ask that to vainquished ships.

BPorter wrote:
4) Allied reinforcements are detected en route and the bad guys leave before they can arrive.

That's the fairest point. But it's a very special combat situation, unless you want some deus ex machina saving the PCs all the time, but it will be quickly visible.


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SuperBidi wrote:
BPorter wrote:
1) You can run away if your ship can maintain distance or increase distance over a period of time.

Even with a faster ship, it's nearly impossible, as weapons can shoot at 10 times their range increment and we are speaking of 2 to 4 squares per round. Roughly, you need 50-100 rounds to run away, you're blown to pieces long time before safety, especially if you took a few shots before running away.

BPorter wrote:
2) The ship is crippled and the bad guys leave.

Why???

The ship is crippled and the bad guys finish it. They are bad guys...

BPorter wrote:
3) The ship is crippled and the PCs plead/taunt/trick the bad guys into a boarding action.

Why again? I'm the bad guy, I've won the fight, if I don't want to destroy the ship, I ask the crew to just hang outside while I board it easily. As a PC, I always ask that to vainquished ships.

BPorter wrote:
4) Allied reinforcements are detected en route and the bad guys leave before they can arrive.
That's the fairest point. But it's a very special combat situation, unless you want some deus ex machina saving the PCs all the time, but it will be quickly visible.

#1 - Being able to shoot at that range and hit at that range are 2 different things. Also, if you're going to take that literal an interpretation of range & escape, you'll have to also take it for initial detection and closing. Both of which would be resolved via a few checks at my table but if you want to adhere to those kinds of scenarios, the PCs should have ample time to assess/scan foes and disengage before combat starts.

#2 - This is no different than any personal combat encounter. Being a "bad guy" doesn't equate to "kill all opponents all the time". If it does, I suspect TPKs and frequent introduction of new characters is a commonplace occurrence, so starship combat doesn't alter that.

You can run NPCs and encounters any way you like, but the things you're citing are mostly GM decisions/choices and not flaws (or features) of starship combat.

Bottom line, where you see a binary outcome, I see unexpected/unscripted role-playing and story opportunities.


BPorter wrote:
#1 - Being able to shoot at that range and hit at that range are 2 different things. Also, if you're going to take that literal an interpretation of range & escape, you'll have to also take it for initial detection and closing. Both of which would be resolved via a few checks at my table but if you want to adhere to those kinds of scenarios, the PCs should have ample time to assess/scan foes and disengage before combat starts.

You've got a point.

Hitting at range is not the issue when you have dozens of round to try. You'll get a few criticals along the way. But it's true that you may consider the players are out of scanners at some point.

BPorter wrote:
If it does, I suspect TPKs and frequent introduction of new characters is a commonplace occurrence, so starship combat doesn't alter that.

Yes, of course. If the players lose a personal combat, they are all dead. But it nearly never happens, as personal combats are not binary, so you can just drop one character or two to scare your players, and they will feel the challenge.


Also, while the range of weapons is 10 increments, the range of sensors is somehow only five, so pay attention to that as the most common limiting factor.


My players modified the Sunrise Maiden to have two turrets with the best guns they can mount. They keep upgrading those turret-mounted guns as they level up the ship. Other systems like engines and shields are still fairly low. They quickly destroy all enemies in the AP. Piloting doesn't matter much because they can aim everywhere and balance their shields, but their pilot usually wins initiative so they rarely get hit in the same shield twice - that's why they can afford to have weak shields.

Even so, it still seems to take an hour or two and most of the players spend that time looking at their cell phones rather than at the Starfinder game.

In book 5, I added extra copies of the enemy ships just to challenge them and I finally managed to inflict hull point damage on them before they won, and half of the challenge was that their gunner rolled a ridiculous number of terrible attack rolls. It was the only time that space combat even woke them up and got their eyes off their cell phones for a few minutes, but it also extended the fight to well over two hours.

I'm not a fan of how most players have so little to do. "I balance the shields. Rolled a 21. Done." 5 or 6 times in a 90 minute battle is not at all engaging.

I'm not a fan of how easy it is to "game the system". Have turrets? Yay, auto-win. Don't have turrets? Bummer, I sure hope your enemy is just a clueless or else, boo, auto-lose. Or, have a very high pilot skill? Yay, auto win. Else, boo...

Have both? OK, let's save ourselves 90 minutes or so and I'll narrate: "It's a short battle, over in just a minute or two of your characters' lives. A few heavy salvos from your turrets disable all the enemy ships who never really had a chance with their poorly designed ships (no turret weapons) and their poorly-trained pilots."

I'm not a fan of how it's all-or-nothing. I don't dare try too hard to win (which hasn't mattered as the fights have never even been close, even with me trying). Especially when they got out far away from the pact worlds. No help in sight, better win the fight. Sure, I can save them if they lose, but they'll know I saved them. Maybe once or twice I could get away with it (enemy doesn't blow them up but boards them and now they capture the enemy ship, or they escape to a nearby planet and find and repair a derelict ship, or whatever). Too often and it's just silly/obvious. How many times did Kirk or Picard lose their ship? A couple, which was actually cool, but only a tiny fraction of their encounters.

I'm not a fan of how the players are encouraged to blow up or ignore the enemy ships (try to rescue/salvage/board and that's when really bad things happen like self-destruct, for example) but then in one fight in one AP, a fairly significant amount of treasure can only be had by boarding - my players blew it all up without even trying.

I'm not a fan of how the whole thing seems to be reduced down to, "If you're close enough to fight, you too close to run away, so now it's a fight to the death." My villains can't escape, the PCs couldn't escape if they needed to. By the time it's going so badly that a ship decides to run away, it takes too many rounds to actually break off combat - they'll certainly be destroyed before they escape. That may also be true for ground combat, but at least enemies have lairs with traps, secret doors, hidden allies just down the hall, or any number of other diversion and distraction that help them get away, none of which work very well in space. Or they can just teleport out or use lots of other magic to break off and escape, none of which seems plausible in space.

None of my players are fans of it either. I guarantee if I ask them "OK, space combat time. Want to just skip it?" that they would unanimously agree, instantly, without reservation. They are definitely enjoying the campaigns and their characters are having fun exploring worlds and fighting bad guys on the ground, but nobody is having fun in space.


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Once the players master the "flying death turret with a crappy ship attached to it" build, it's time for the GM to upgrade the enemy's ships as well.

Either bump its tier one or two levels, or redistribute the same BP into more turrets and more missiles.

And the most important thing: give the NPC gunners some resolve points for the Broadside action. Having 6 weapons fired at them (combined with flyby stunts) will put some fear in the player's hearts.


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Starship combat needs serious balancing. My group finds it fun but I had to impose a lot of restrictions on ship upgrading so that it kept enemy ships in APs relevant. Once I did that things went much more smoothly. IF not then yes its oh look a ship, dakka, dakka, dakka.. boom! what ship? and it becomes a yawn fest.

I hope to see a expanded ship book out with proper rails for construction. While the rules work perfectly well for making ships not having any limitations on what they can upgrade, how they upgrade or how much they can upgrade leads to imbalanced ship encounters immediately.

My group loves the RP possibilities and the interaction of scanning, captain giving orders, hailing the ship and all that. If you handle it like any other encounter and spice it up beyond just a combat session they can be loads of fun but yeah it needs balancing badly.

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The Ragi wrote:

Once the players master the "flying death turret with a crappy ship attached to it" build, it's time for the GM to upgrade the enemy's ships as well.

Either bump its tier one or two levels, or redistribute the same BP into more turrets and more missiles.

And the most important thing: give the NPC gunners some resolve points for the Broadside action. Having 6 weapons fired at them (combined with flyby stunts) will put some fear in the player's hearts.

I agree that when players catch on to the way starship optimization works, out of the book ships don't cut it anymore to challenge them.

However, giving the enemies more guns doesn't really make things better I think, because it just turns space battle into "in two rounds, one of these ships will be the first to be shot to bits". Enemy ships with the same firepower as a PC optimized ships just turn the space battle into a risky coin flip, not into the sort of deep tactical fight that we're looking for.


I think the key is to make sure the PCs ship isn't optimized in the first place.

It still doesn't solve my problem of one or two PCs contributing very little to a starship combat that might drag on for a while.

I think for number of players >= 4, two ships and rebalanced encounters is the way to go to keep all players engaged.


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Garretmander wrote:

I think the key is to make sure the PCs ship isn't optimized in the first place.

It still doesn't solve my problem of one or two PCs contributing very little to a starship combat that might drag on for a while.

I think for number of players >= 4, two ships and rebalanced encounters is the way to go to keep all players engaged.

My group is 6 and as they say it all varies dependent on group. I imposed a 3 upgrade per tier limit with each upgrade only being able to be increased up to current lvl +2 in the case of systems with multiple levels like engines or shields. Expansion Bays & security systems do not count.

That seemed to fix the grossly over powered compared to NPC ships issue. As for 2 PCs not having much to do I never see this with my group but they really get into the Star Trek kinda feel with ship combat and like the banter, scanning, engineering shenanigans and what not and I try to feed them plenty of fluff actions to keep things interesting. I think its really all what you make of it but Ive had no complaints from my non pilot, non gunner players so far.


I think the "I go last so you lose" system is bad. It puts way too much advantage on the best piloting skill.

I would prefer to alternate moves: Lowest initiative moves one hex, next ship moves one hex, next ship moves one hex, etc. Might be slower, but just about anything has to be better than having the fastest ship always shooting the enemy's weakest shield while keeping its best shield toward the enemy.

There's probably a reason we don't handle personal combat that way in Pathfinder or Starfinder. Imagine characters having facing in combat and armor can be damaged and broken but only in one facing at a time, and then the elf always hits the orc in the weakest armor while keeping his own best armor facing the orc...

Probably gives the most advantage to ships with the fastest engines, but that might be reasonably fair. That's like giving a personal combat advantage to the character with the item that gives him Haste - if you invest in the item, it should be beneficial. (Note: my PCs often choose not to fly their full speed - they only need enough to get a firing solution to the enemy's weakest shield anyway.)

Piloting would still be useful, especially if we made more interesting maneuvers for pilots and more reason to use them.

If it's too slow, then let them each move 1/3 or 1/4 of their total hexes on their turn for 3 or 4 turns.


To put that last post into context of this thread, we haven't encountered even one ship in the Dead Suns AP where the enemy pilot was even close to the PC pilot. The PCs win about 70-80% of the initiative rolls, only failing when their pilot rolls badly and the enemy simultaneously rolls well.

Which means the PCs are routinely blowing away the enemy's weakest shield and then hull points while the enemy is frantically trying to rebalance shields each round, just to stay alive.


I agree with previous posters that PCs who aren't flying or shooting need more to do. Sure, they have stuff to do, but it has little or no impact and feels like busy-work. "Here, lemme roll this die to give you a small bonus to your roll. I'm done."

I also agree that it's far, FAR too easy to optimize a flying death ray of doom that can wipe out every ship in the APs, but yet the APs never include a ship encounter with even remotely the same level of optimization. We might not even want that much NPC optimization - could be too easy to disable/destroy the PCs' ship too often. Which means we probably need to restrict the opportunity for massive over-optimization. Raise the cost of turrets and guns compared to the cost of other systems. Make it advantageous, or better yet on par, to add things like armor, shields, computers, scanners, engines, drift engines, etc.

Balance those things and combat might be much more interesting, especially with AP under-optimized ships.


In addition to letting anyone snap shot, I also increased fixed-weapon damage, BP and PCU cost, making them more attractive and thus making positioning and piloting checks more relevant.

I also firmly believe that space ship combat should never be about two ships trading blows. I want a swarm of fighters/interceptors zipping around, creating a chaotic mess of laser and missile fire. I've played Elite Dangerous, I know that just two ships comes down to resources; who has the better shields and weapons. Numbers smooth that out and make it more interesting.

I've had four or five ship combats in my game so far and each one has been a nail biter.


DM_Blake wrote:

To put that last post into context of this thread, we haven't encountered even one ship in the Dead Suns AP where the enemy pilot was even close to the PC pilot. The PCs win about 70-80% of the initiative rolls, only failing when their pilot rolls badly and the enemy simultaneously rolls well.

Which means the PCs are routinely blowing away the enemy's weakest shield and then hull points while the enemy is frantically trying to rebalance shields each round, just to stay alive.

I've seen a lot of maxed Dexterity Ace Pilot Operatives. But we are speaking as the most incredibly maximized characters when it comes to ship combat.

As soon as your pilot is just a guy with an above average Dexterity, maxed piloting and no class, race or theme bonus, the Dead Suns AP enemies have a far more interesting piloting level.

yukongil wrote:
I also firmly believe that space ship combat should never be about two ships trading blows.

I strongly agree. And I don't know why it's always the case... It would at least be an easy way to make a little bit of variation in ship combats.

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I think the NPC side of ship combat is needlessly complex - why is the GM simulating a whole crew with captain encouraging other crew members and all that? Monsters are simplified and use other rules than PC building; why would NPC starships be built exactly the same way as PCs?

Rather I'd like to see NPC ships being designed in such a way that a GM can easily without a lot of bookkeeping run a swarm of them. That would probably mean weedwhacking at NPC officer roles, shield quadrants, and critical hits to things like NPC sensors - all kinds of bookkeeping you don't want when running 5 enemy ships.

I also think we need a LOT more going on than "ship combat is about who gets defeated/chased off the map". If the normal game was only about combat we'd get complaints that it's boring murderhobo stuff. Why are we doing so little in space except shooting?


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Ascalaphus wrote:

I think the NPC side of ship combat is needlessly complex - why is the GM simulating a whole crew with captain encouraging other crew members and all that? Monsters are simplified and use other rules than PC building; why would NPC starships be built exactly the same way as PCs?

Rather I'd like to see NPC ships being designed in such a way that a GM can easily without a lot of bookkeeping run a swarm of them. That would probably mean weedwhacking at NPC officer roles, shield quadrants, and critical hits to things like NPC sensors - all kinds of bookkeeping you don't want when running 5 enemy ships.

I've never encountered this problem and like I've previously mentioned, I've only run large multi-ship combats (biggest so far were 15 enemy swarm fighters). The crews are built off of the NPC charts, so I assume all that stuff is taken into account, as no 2nd Tier PC ship has a +12 gunnery check

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yukongil wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

I think the NPC side of ship combat is needlessly complex - why is the GM simulating a whole crew with captain encouraging other crew members and all that? Monsters are simplified and use other rules than PC building; why would NPC starships be built exactly the same way as PCs?

Rather I'd like to see NPC ships being designed in such a way that a GM can easily without a lot of bookkeeping run a swarm of them. That would probably mean weedwhacking at NPC officer roles, shield quadrants, and critical hits to things like NPC sensors - all kinds of bookkeeping you don't want when running 5 enemy ships.

I've never encountered this problem and like I've previously mentioned, I've only run large multi-ship combats (biggest so far were 15 enemy swarm fighters). The crews are built off of the NPC charts, so I assume all that stuff is taken into account, as no 2nd Tier PC ship has a +12 gunnery check

So suppose I had five NPC ships (not just single person fighters). That would mean:

* Five captains rolling to see if they assist 5 other people in their ship.
* Five ships that could each be taunted by the PCs once for 1d4 rounds.
* Five captains that could each taunt the PCs once for 1d4 rounds. That could be different roles on the ship being taunted for different time spans simultaneously.
* Five pilots rolling initiative.
* Five pilots succeeding or failing to Evade.
* Five engineers diverting power to things.
* Five science officers fiddling with shields or target-locking.
* 5x4 shield ratings to track.
* 5 sets of hull points to track
* 5 ships that can each have critical hits in 4 main ship sections and 4 weapon acts in 3 degrees of severity.
* 5 ships each expending limited fire weapons at different amounts per turn

That's quite an increase in bookkeeping. I wouldn't want to run that. The lack of abstraction makes it unattractive to have the PCs fight against multiple proper ships just because it's too much fuss for the GM to track.


Ascalaphus wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

I think the NPC side of ship combat is needlessly complex - why is the GM simulating a whole crew with captain encouraging other crew members and all that? Monsters are simplified and use other rules than PC building; why would NPC starships be built exactly the same way as PCs?

Rather I'd like to see NPC ships being designed in such a way that a GM can easily without a lot of bookkeeping run a swarm of them. That would probably mean weedwhacking at NPC officer roles, shield quadrants, and critical hits to things like NPC sensors - all kinds of bookkeeping you don't want when running 5 enemy ships.

I've never encountered this problem and like I've previously mentioned, I've only run large multi-ship combats (biggest so far were 15 enemy swarm fighters). The crews are built off of the NPC charts, so I assume all that stuff is taken into account, as no 2nd Tier PC ship has a +12 gunnery check

So suppose I had five NPC ships (not just single person fighters). That would mean:

* Five captains rolling to see if they assist 5 other people in their ship.
* Five ships that could each be taunted by the PCs once for 1d4 rounds.
* Five captains that could each taunt the PCs once for 1d4 rounds. That could be different roles on the ship being taunted for different time spans simultaneously.
* Five pilots rolling initiative.
* Five pilots succeeding or failing to Evade.
* Five engineers diverting power to things.
* Five science officers fiddling with shields or target-locking.
* 5x4 shield ratings to track.
* 5 sets of hull points to track
* 5 ships that can each have critical hits in 4 main ship sections and 4 weapon acts in 3 degrees of severity.
* 5 ships each expending limited fire weapons at different amounts per turn

That's quite an increase in bookkeeping. I wouldn't want to run that. The lack of abstraction makes it unattractive to have the PCs fight against multiple proper ships just because it's too much fuss for the GM to track.

no I'm saying you can ignore all that because NPC ships behave just like NPCs out-of-ships. When it comes to large groups of enemies in normal combat, are you keeping track of all of their options, or just pew pewing? Probably pew pewing. Well that's what you do with ship combat. Their increased skill levels as compared to PCs can be considered to already figure in all the options; again no 2nd level PC has a +12 gunnery, piloting, etc check.

Now shields are a bit annoying to keep track of, until you make you up a handy-dandy system to ease the pain (dry erase markers and page protectors are your friend!), otherwise you focus on the pew pew. Just like mooks in a typical brawl. You rarely care to heal such fodder, or make Perception checks to see if they notice the weaknesses of the PCs.

Now if you run big ships, that's a different story, as that's probably a much more narratively meatier encounter, but then you're probably not running multiples of those attacking the PCs, but even if you are, it's again no different than running a fully fleshed out NPC squad (Operative, Mechanics, Technomancer, or Mystics have similar book-keeping)


Ascalaphus wrote:
yukongil wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:

I think the NPC side of ship combat is needlessly complex - why is the GM simulating a whole crew with captain encouraging other crew members and all that? Monsters are simplified and use other rules than PC building; why would NPC starships be built exactly the same way as PCs?

Rather I'd like to see NPC ships being designed in such a way that a GM can easily without a lot of bookkeeping run a swarm of them. That would probably mean weedwhacking at NPC officer roles, shield quadrants, and critical hits to things like NPC sensors - all kinds of bookkeeping you don't want when running 5 enemy ships.

I've never encountered this problem and like I've previously mentioned, I've only run large multi-ship combats (biggest so far were 15 enemy swarm fighters). The crews are built off of the NPC charts, so I assume all that stuff is taken into account, as no 2nd Tier PC ship has a +12 gunnery check

So suppose I had five NPC ships (not just single person fighters). That would mean:

* Five captains rolling to see if they assist 5 other people in their ship.
* Five ships that could each be taunted by the PCs once for 1d4 rounds.
* Five captains that could each taunt the PCs once for 1d4 rounds. That could be different roles on the ship being taunted for different time spans simultaneously.
* Five pilots rolling initiative.
* Five pilots succeeding or failing to Evade.
* Five engineers diverting power to things.
* Five science officers fiddling with shields or target-locking.
* 5x4 shield ratings to track.
* 5 sets of hull points to track
* 5 ships that can each have critical hits in 4 main ship sections and 4 weapon acts in 3 degrees of severity.
* 5 ships each expending limited fire weapons at different amounts per turn

That's quite an increase in bookkeeping. I wouldn't want to run that. The lack of abstraction makes it unattractive to have the PCs fight against multiple proper ships just because it's too much fuss for the GM to track.

You could keep track of all that. If you're a rules lawyer, you should keep track of all that.

Me, in the one multi-ship battle I've run, I already abstracted a bunch of that stuff.

I did roll initiative separately. It's too important not to. I made assumptions about captain assists or science officer fiddling with shields or other crew skills - mostly I just assumed they made the rolls because the PCs almost never fail so I figure the NPCs should be similar. Then I treated it like a permanent buff unless in some round I felt they should change that to a different buff. I combined shield and hull into an abstract single number and treated shield balancing like I treat regeneration in a Pathfinder game. Critical hits I treated like any other debuff and removed the debuff after a round or two (assuming a crew member fixed it).

My players had no idea I did that. They thought I actually was tracking all that stuff and they were suitably impressed that I kept it all straight without slowing the game.

Saved me all kinds of headache, kept the game running smoothly, and the player experience was unchanged, so it was a win/win/win.

On a side note:

If a GM can abstract 2/3 of a complex system with no outward indication that he's doing that, then the system is probably overly-complex in the first place - it suggests that the actual game could have the rules rewritten to abstract all of that in the first place.

Sovereign Court

Yeah so you guys are basically in agreement with me that it's too burdensome to do it by the book. You're saying that's not such a problem because you don't do it by the book.

Sure, in a home game. But for SFS for example, but also for AP writing, that's a hindrance. If "by the book" doesn't work for fleet battles in practice, then you can't have scenarios with fleet battles. And we're condemned to 1:1 battles still.


Ascalaphus wrote:

Yeah so you guys are basically in agreement with me that it's too burdensome to do it by the book. You're saying that's not such a problem because you don't do it by the book.

Sure, in a home game. But for SFS for example, but also for AP writing, that's a hindrance. If "by the book" doesn't work for fleet battles in practice, then you can't have scenarios with fleet battles. And we're condemned to 1:1 battles still.

nothing in the books says you have to use an option. Like captain actions, the NPC crews don't need an additional +2/+4 to a skill check, cause they are already higher than any equal level PC, so you can more or less ignore that option. Fighters don't have engineers or science officers, so shields are just temp hp on that side, so you can ignore those phases as well. That leave's piloting and gunning, both pretty simple and run just like normal combat; move, hit, damage, be hit, record damage, wash/rinse/repeat until stardust.


Ascalaphus wrote:
Yeah so you guys are basically in agreement with me that it's too burdensome to do it by the book. You're saying that's not such a problem because you don't do it by the book.

I didn't say that.

I specifically said that the rules could (and probably should) be streamlined so this wouldn't be necessary.


DM_Blake wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Yeah so you guys are basically in agreement with me that it's too burdensome to do it by the book. You're saying that's not such a problem because you don't do it by the book.

I didn't say that.

I specifically said that the rules could (and probably should) be streamlined so this wouldn't be necessary.

Really not seeing the difference there


I only roll the piloting and gunnery checks, everything else is pre-rolled and usually goes as planned.

That "free snap shot for everyone" homebrew might actually change ship building, since having extra guns for everyone might become more important than having only ridiculous turrets.

More broad arc options would come handy - not to mention having so many weapons fired might actually open up room for silly weapon, like EMP, tractor beams, spores, mystical, drones, etc, and new strategies.


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I wonder if the linked weapons option should be more expensive (or maybe even struck off as an option). That might be a quick and easy house rule to limit starship effectiveness, especially those with small crews.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Fleet battles would be the equivalent of mass combat, something that hasn't really followed the character-level combat of just about any RPG.

Legendary Games' Star Battles is about the only alternative currently available that I'm aware of.

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