Houserules for starship turrets


Homebrew


So: turrets on starships.

I like the idea from a theme and story standpoint. It is a fairly obvious engineering direction to take, so there really is no way to remove turrets from the game without making things unbelievable. Also, I don't think that turrets need to be removed. I just think that they need tweaked so that they don't take over the entire focus of starship combat.

When I first started playing the game with my family, I only gave them a ship frame that didn't have a turret for two reasons. I wanted to give them fewer rules to worry about when they are first starting, and I think that turrets are too powerful. Shortly after we started playing, I had to also remove the 'turn in place' movement action because the pilot of the ship was basically trying to make the entire ship a turret.

The problem:
RAW, the most optimal and cost-effective build is to put all of your weapons budget into turret weapons. I have heard this build called the 'death sphere' build. What this does is makes the ship's offence very powerful in all directions at a much lower cost than putting weapons on all of the fixed-arc weapon ports. That leaves more budget available for massive shields and such and generally causes the ship to be much more powerful than expected by the game. It also sucks most of the fun out of the piloting actions since it doesn't matter as much where the ship is placed or what direction it is facing.

What I want to keep:
I like the idea of turrets to cover arcs that don't have fixed-arc weapon ports. Many of the ship frames that the players are actually able to use don't have aft weapon ports. Sure, they can buy one. But some of these frames also have a turret mount.

I also like the idea of the players being able to swing more power into a particular arc to increase the damage potential there. It increases the tactical possibilities available to them.

Similarly I like the idea of putting point weapons on a turret so that they have the possibility of the defensive anti-tracking-weapon ability available on different arcs.

What I have come up with:
Turrets can only be in one arc at a time during a ship combat round. Any gunner (with preference to one that is planning on actually using the turret) can change the arc of the turret during the engineering phase of the round. No roll required.

The effect of this is that the turrets are still useful for adding firepower to a particular arc or defending a particular arc, but it requires a bit more planning and thought. As long as the players plan well and win the piloting initiative roll, the turret should be very effective. If something goes wrong, there is a possibility that the turret will not be effective at all - so the players may want to have some backup weapons on the fixed-arc ports.

So what does the forum population think? Any problems that you can see? Any other suggestions?


breithauptclan wrote:

What I want to keep:

I like the idea of turrets to cover arcs that don't have fixed-arc weapon ports. Many of the ship frames that the players are actually able to use don't have aft weapon ports. Sure, they can buy one. But some of these frames also have a turret mount.

I like the idea that turrets have limited capabilities to change their facing.

While it would add complexity, I might look at the idea that a turret has a firing arc of only 60 degrees (so, like the forward or aft arc). During a turn, they can only rotate 60 degrees.

Now, if they are required to turn during the Engineering Phase or the Gunnery Phase is something that would require testing. Initially I might just try the turret facing can be rotated (with respect to the ship's facing) by 60 degrees during the Gunnery Phase.

I'm not sure about allowing more than 60 degree turns of the turret, since allowing 120 degree turns mean the turret could to point in any new direction except in the opposite direction they started from. Maybe allow it to be done with a difficult skill check but even success incurs a penalty to the Gunnery roll (-4 maybe?).

It does mean a new overhead is required since the turret facing is required to be tracked and it might be difficult to see the direction it is actually facing. Having extra die rolls and decisions to make will slow combat down as well.

But, something to think about, not only for turrets but for the other points you mention.


I'd prefer to keep the existing arc system rather than making turrets have their own firing area. It integrates with the existing rules better. But that 60 degree firing direction is interesting.

I like the idea of an emergency change of turret arc during the gunnery phase. Maybe two even. Both change the turret's current arc by one before firing. One imposes a -4 penalty to the attack roll. The other is a push action that costs a resolve point, but has no penalty.


breithauptclan wrote:

I'd prefer to keep the existing arc system rather than making turrets have their own firing area. It integrates with the existing rules better. But that 60 degree firing direction is interesting.

I like the idea of an emergency change of turret arc during the gunnery phase. Maybe two even. Both change the turret's current arc by one before firing. One imposes a -4 penalty to the attack roll. The other is a push action that costs a resolve point, but has no penalty.

Using the existing Forward/Port/Aft/Starboard arcs would mean if you allowed the turrets facing to move two arcs, it means you've removed all limitations and it's back to where it currently is.

e.g. If a turret is pointing into the forward arc, the with just a change of one arc, you could cover all the arcs except for the Aft arc. Allowing a turret to rotate two arcs means it can point in any direction.

This seems too flexible, it's not worth the overhead of new rules to make such a small change to the existing rules.

As for integrating with existing rules, consider the turret as a ship with a forward facing gun that can only fire into the forward arc. You can turn the turret only by one facing each turn.

But they are your house-rules so go with what you think would be best.
Using RP points is a good idea.


breithauptclan wrote:
I like the idea of an emergency change of turret arc during the gunnery phase. Maybe two even.

Bah. English has failed me again.

Two different actions available to change the turret arc by one notch. Because you are absolutely right, allowing the players to move the turret by two arcs would put things almost right back where we started.


First off, I believe you are fixing a problem that doesn't exist. Bear in mind that turrets count as being in all arcs, which means when critical damage time comes and you hit a weapon arc, those turret weapons will be quick to have problems. I also think that starship combat is a minor part of the game - a fun skill challenge activity. As such, I don't see it being worth a lot of effort tuning it.

Second, it's your game and your fun so if you think it's more fun a different way, go for it.

Unintended consequences: Putting a restriction on turret movement will draw out starship combat longer. Some people believe this is a problem already so you may not want to add to it.

As for point defense weapons you could just say they are automatically available for all arcs. They're point defense. Right now, having run some numbers, I don't believe PD weapons are worth it and those BPs are better put into shields. So you definitely should avoid nerfing PD further.

One house rule I've seen floated is that the turret can only move one arc per turn and that's part of firing. So if a pilot can put themselves "behind" where the turret was last time, they avoid the turret fire. This adds complexity of remembering where your turret was. It also is a fairly minor restriction with only 4 arcs.

Also what happens when I have multiple turret weapons? Are they each in their own turret? (I'd say yes, but not linked ones obviously.)

The other way to address this is to simply agree with the players to not get too crazy on this. If they make a death ball, you say no. Otherwise, we just play as is.


Wingblaze wrote:

First off, I believe you are fixing a problem that doesn't exist. Bear in mind that turrets count as being in all arcs, which means when critical damage time comes and you hit a weapon arc, those turret weapons will be quick to have problems.

The ship combats that we have done so far haven't gotten to the point where the PC ship has run out of shields yet. So no critical damage. But that is a separate house rule that I am kicking around with - some way of applying critical damage through the shields. Give the engineer something to do other than boost the weapons or thrusters each round.

Wingblaze wrote:


Unintended consequences: Putting a restriction on turret movement will draw out starship combat longer. Some people believe this is a problem already so you may not want to add to it.

My hope is that it will also make the combat more interesting. So far the ship combats that we have had when no turrets were available have been reasonably cool.

Wingblaze wrote:


As for point defense weapons you could just say they are automatically available for all arcs. They're point defense. Right now, having run some numbers, I don't believe PD weapons are worth it and those BPs are better put into shields. So you definitely should avoid nerfing PD further.

Hmm... I haven't run the numbers on how valuable a point weapon is. I may need to do that. I am also interested in seeing what you have for the math on that.

Wingblaze wrote:


Also what happens when I have multiple turret weapons? Are they each in their own turret? (I'd say yes, but not linked ones obviously.)

That is also a good point.

I would tend to agree with you. Non-linked turret weapons should be on their own independent turret.

Wingblaze wrote:


The other way to address this is to simply agree with the players to not get too crazy on this. If they make a death ball, you say no. Otherwise, we just play as is.

That would probably be easier. But bugs me to simply say no. No, you can't do that obviously better option because it would break the game. So you have to deliberately stupidify your characters and pretend that they didn't think of that.


The math on PD: It was a while ago and it's hard to recall. I looked at build point efficiency comparing tracking defense (which was expensive), PD weapons, and just sucking up the hits. Shields are cheap and reliable and they work no matter what's shooting at you. tracking defense is very expensive, and PD weapons get into the odds of them actually doing their job correctly. It did not speak well to a case for using BP for things other than shields.

As for the gentleman's agreement to not death ball - I wouldn't say you're saying "no you can't do that". You're saying "Guys, I'd like to discuss something. We all want to have fun. This seems not-fun. I'm debating some house rules. If you'd prefer, we can skip that and just agree not to to there. If you'd prefer it or think it's more fun to make some rules, we can do that too." and see what they like. It's not "you" and "them". It's "you"..("youz"? "all y'all"?) it's you all together and you're grown ups. Work it out as such. I'm all about maximum fun for minimum effort.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The idea I have kicked around to some people is to apply a cost multiplier of 1.5 (possibly 2, if that proves insufficient) to turret mounted weapons, so that ships that have their weapons in a fixed arc can afford to have more firepower.

Another approach would be to limit mount size in a turret, so that ships that could have heavy weapons in an arc could only have light weapons in turrets.


Wingblaze wrote:

The math on PD: It was a while ago and it's hard to recall. I looked at build point efficiency comparing tracking defense (which was expensive), PD weapons, and just sucking up the hits. Shields are cheap and reliable and they work no matter what's shooting at you. tracking defense is very expensive, and PD weapons get into the odds of them actually doing their job correctly. It did not speak well to a case for using BP for things other than shields.

OK. I will certainly take that into consideration.

Wingblaze wrote:
it's you all together and you're grown ups.

Except that they are not ;-) I am playing with my wife and kids. So 11, 13, and 17 years old (and my wife whose age will remain a mystery). Smart enough to determine the optimal strategies. Maybe not mature enough to realize that it might make things less fun.


Re: Hammerjack - Mount sizes are already limited in turrets by the RAW. (Of course you can limit it further)

Re: breithauptclan "Except that they are not ;-)".. um... oh. Well, that um... You know what? I'll just stop now. Outside my experience :)

I'll throw one more idea out there that's not often said - the thing about starship combat is that the party is supposed to win. Yeah, you can say that about regular combat, but the truth is there are a lot of ways to escape/survive if a regular firefight goes badly. One player can drop and the others keep going, heal him, whatever.

But if they lose ship combat... things get pretty ugly fast what with space being unforgiving and all. Being in a life pod isn't that appealing of a survival prospect either. I personally believe that the entire thing is therefore tilted slightly in the player's favor since the system and the plotline are pretty unforgiving about a bunch of bad rolls leaving them on the losing end of a space battle.


Under page 305 in the core rule book you will find that it costs 5BP to create a light weapon mount on a turret that has space. It costs 6 BP per turreted light weapon mount to turn it into a heavy turret weapon mount.

So there it costs more to add weapon mounts to turrets than to other parts of the ship.

A fixed arc light weapon mount costs 3BP and it cost 4BP to upgrade a light fixed weapon arc to a heavy fixed arc weapon mount.

So it is not that cheap to add weapon mounts or upgrade weapons to turrets.

Sovereign Court

I've thought about making turret weapons more expensive than regular weapons, but you'd have to get close to making it 4x more expensive to measure up against the price of having weapons in all arcs. At that point you're just stealth-banning turrets.

My own preference would be to make the weapon heaviness classes a bit more granular. Then, for a given ship size, you can have at most a particular weapon size on fixed mounts, and a smaller maximum size on the turrets.

That turns turrets more into the "consolation prize" weapons that you use against enemies that are being really fast and maneuverable and that are getting on your wrong side. But what you're really trying is to get your best side pointed at them.

Then when you actually have a particular side of your ship that you want to point at the enemy, piloting gets more interesting, but also shields start working differently, because you can't as easily rotate the ship to display a not yet used up shield. You can still have your science officer do that, but it costs you an action.

So on the whole it would move some of the effectiveness of shields towards making pilots more important.


Give the engineer something to do other than boost the weapons or thrusters each round.

Boosting the weapons is very meh mathematically, and it gets worse as you level up.


Wingblaze wrote:
But if they lose ship combat... things get pretty ugly fast what with space being unforgiving and all. Being in a life pod isn't that appealing of a survival prospect either. I personally believe that the entire thing is therefore tilted slightly in the player's favor since the system and the plotline are pretty unforgiving about a bunch of bad rolls leaving them on the losing end of a space battle.

Yes. This is another problem that I am looking at. In the last game time we were playing, I was on the other end of this. One of the players is a bounty hunter and the group found the guy and nearly killed him in a storage hangar. The bad guy escaped to his starship and took off. Cue starship chase scene.

And quickly found out that starship chases don't work so well. I may start a new topic for that at some point soon.

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Boosting the weapons is very meh mathematically, and it gets worse as you level up.

Indeed. The d4 weapons gain the most benefit. Or rather - have the highest probability of getting any benefit at all.

Boosting thrusters isn't all that much better. Usually the small or medium sized starships the players are capable of piloting already have plenty of speed.

Boosting the shields regains about 0.6 weapon damage roll worth of shield points.

So the engineer is really only useful if the party is currently losing the fight. And if the players are already out-gunned, the actions of the engineer probably won't swing the fight. That seems like a problem too.


Our approach to this is that we float certain roles. If there's no useful engineering, science (or gun if one is available) and vice versa.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I'm well aware of the slight increase in cost on turret mounts over other mounts.

That extra few points is negligible, compared to the value of having weapons in a turret, instead of a fixed arc, especially as ship tiers increase, the cost of weapons increases, and the cost per mount stays static.

Pointing at the extra points to upgrade a turret mount over a fixed mount is as minor of a balance consideration as turrets being more susceptible to critical system damage.


breithauptclan wrote:


So the engineer is really only useful if the party is currently losing the fight. And if the players are already out-gunned, the actions of the engineer probably won't swing the fight. That seems like a problem too.

Keeping the hits on your shields instead of glitching your systems and dinging your hull points is valuable even if you're winning. You don't want your turret taking a -2 to hit, then you need to fix that, not fix the shields, and then it's a bit of a death spiral.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:


So the engineer is really only useful if the party is currently losing the fight. And if the players are already out-gunned, the actions of the engineer probably won't swing the fight. That seems like a problem too.

Keeping the hits on your shields instead of glitching your systems and dinging your hull points is valuable even if you're winning. You don't want your turret taking a -2 to hit, then you need to fix that, not fix the shields, and then it's a bit of a death spiral.

Hmm... If you are marginally winning, then keeping the shields up to prevent critical hits would be useful to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

But if you are losing? If you can recharge 16 shield points per turn to distribute across your shield arcs, but the three enemy ships you are facing are reliably doing 10 damage each? I don't think that recharging the shields is going to prevent the critical damage. Or the loss of the fight.


breithauptclan wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:


So the engineer is really only useful if the party is currently losing the fight. And if the players are already out-gunned, the actions of the engineer probably won't swing the fight. That seems like a problem too.

Keeping the hits on your shields instead of glitching your systems and dinging your hull points is valuable even if you're winning. You don't want your turret taking a -2 to hit, then you need to fix that, not fix the shields, and then it's a bit of a death spiral.

Hmm... If you are marginally winning, then keeping the shields up to prevent critical hits would be useful to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

But if you are losing? If you can recharge 16 shield points per turn to distribute across your shield arcs, but the three enemy ships you are facing are reliably doing 10 damage each? I don't think that recharging the shields is going to prevent the critical damage. Or the loss of the fight.

Uh, that would halve your hull damage per round and double the turns you can keep fighting. That’s totally your best engineer move in that situation. Note that per the FAQ you can dump the shield boost in whichever arc or arcs you want.


Generally you're not fighting 3 ships (and if its a balanced encounter you won't be fighting 3 for all) so if you're going in for a long fight only one shield gets hit every round, so on round 1 you lose most of your shields, you turn the ship or the science officer rebalances the shields another shield takes some damage , you restore the first shields, the second ones take damage you start fixing those...


Xenocrat wrote:
Uh, that would halve your hull damage per round and double the turns you can keep fighting. That’s totally your best engineer move in that situation.

Agreed that it is the best move. But TPK in 10 rounds instead of 5 is still a problem.

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Generally you're not fighting 3 ships (and if its a balanced encounter you won't be fighting 3 for all)

Ah, but I am talking about a fight that the players are decidedly losing. Most likely because the GM (yours truly here) screwed up big time*. Which, I guess is more the topic of the other houserules thread that I have going right now.

* I mean, seriously, why wouldn't space pirates attack a lone cargo ship in overwhelming numbers? That's what I would do if I were a space pirate.


breithauptclan wrote:
* I mean, seriously, why wouldn't space pirates attack a lone cargo ship in overwhelming numbers? That's what I would do if I were a space pirate.

Perhaps because they don't have overwhelming numbers?

It's not much different from ground enemies - you could have them attack in overwhelming numbers, and sure it would make "sense", but you find a reason why that isn't what happens because the game demands that it can't be what happens.


breithauptclan wrote:


Ah, but I am talking about a fight that the players are decidedly losing.

I don't think you can blame engineering for being useless for such a weird situation.

IF you're fighting three ships (this will sound weird) your first job is to get surrounded. 3 ships hitting the same shield are going to cut through you like butter. 3 ships surrounding you buys you a round to blow one out of the sky. 3 ships surrounding you can all be shot individually : have everyone abandon their normal stations and hop on a gun. The captains kind of useless anyway, the science officer might stay where they are, everyone else grab a gun.

The front + turret blow away ship 1. Engineer gets back to shields

The front + 1 side blow away a (hopefully wounded) ship 2 captain goes back to the dilbert principle.

Turn the ship to avoid damage and let the turret finish off ship 3.

If the other ships are too tough for that, chances are pretty good someone missed that an encounter on your tier is tough in starship combat as opposed to ground combat where tier +3 is tough


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Why should the captain jump on a gun when they can use Orders to give the most accurate gunner a second action, or moving speech to make all those attacks roll 2 d20s and take the better?


HammerJack wrote:
Why should the captain jump on a gun when they can use Orders to give the most accurate gunner a second action

doesn't come online till level 6 and...but she can’t take the same action twice and the same gun can't be fired more than once. The gunner taking a broadside at -4 and then taking a shot with a different gun in a different arc MIGHT have 4 points over the captain, but if anything a lot of captains would make better gunners than the gunners. A lot of crews seem to leave gunner for "the guy that's no good at spaceship combat" when its arguably the most critical role ... until you start puncturing through shields and the argument stops. (well relatively)

Quote:
or moving speech to make all those attacks roll 2 d20s and take the better?

Doesn't come online till level 12. I think most enemies are paste by round 1 by this point...


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I figured that if people jumping on extra guns is an option, then there are enough guns for orders to be worthwhile.

Broadside is not a -4, but a -2. The -4 is fire at will.

Leaving the guy who has a bad ranged attack roll for gunner is just a nonsense decision. If anything, they can go in the captain chair and use their gunnery check at a DC 10 to encourage.


HammerJack wrote:

I figured that if people jumping on extra guns is an option, then there are enough guns for orders to be worthwhile.

Broadside is not a -4, but a -2. The -4 is fire at will.

Leaving the guy who has a bad ranged attack roll for gunner is just a nonsense decision.

But a very common one.

People go into starship combat with the ideas that all roles are equally important. So the most optimal crew layout is one where everyone does the thing they do best. Unfortunately not all starship roles are remotely equal.

People make uber envoy with great diplomacy and bluff and they want to use it, even if the actual difference between a great captain and a mediocre one is meh. People make an uber pilot and want to fly, even though the benefit of a pilot starts to die down once ships build death spheres or have a turret that can reliably blow through shields in one shot.

Quote:
If anything, they can go in the captain chair and use their gunnery check at a DC 10 to encourage.

Dilbert principle. Know it, use it....your life may depend on it...:)


In thinking about this overnight, I think you guys are right. The engineer actions are probably about right. If the engineer was able to swing a losing fight into a win all by himself, then the engineer actions would be too powerful.

Especially if it were applied to the NPC enemy ships. Any of them with an engineer or three would be basically unkillable.


You can't do the same action twice. So you can't divert power more than once to regen the shields with 3 engineers.

Not sure if you can overpower and divert...


OK. So we had our first starship fight with turrets.

One thing that we changed immediately was to have the weapon arc chosen during the piloting phase instead of engineering, specifically during the time that the ship is being moved on the game board. It seems to be more natural that way.

The effect of that is that the offensive power of the turret against ships that have lost the piloting roll-off is basically the same as it would be RAW. The turret is only less effective against enemy ships that are moving later in the round. Those ships have the ability to move to a location that the turret isn't currently pointing at.

In all, I like the change. Turrets are still powerful and useful. Putting a big weapon on a turret is still a good choice. But it isn't the best choice by a wide margin any more. There is still good reason to have weapons on fixed mounts.

Sovereign Court

breithauptclan wrote:

OK. So we had our first starship fight with turrets.

One thing that we changed immediately was to have the weapon arc chosen during the piloting phase instead of engineering, specifically during the time that the ship is being moved on the game board. It seems to be more natural that way.

The effect of that is that the offensive power of the turret against ships that have lost the piloting roll-off is basically the same as it would be RAW. The turret is only less effective against enemy ships that are moving later in the round. Those ships have the ability to move to a location that the turret isn't currently pointing at.

In all, I like the change. Turrets are still powerful and useful. Putting a big weapon on a turret is still a good choice. But it isn't the best choice by a wide margin any more. There is still good reason to have weapons on fixed mounts.

I don't think I've seen this variant before. But I'm not immediately sold, because it makes it even more important to win the piloting roll-off. If you can regularly win piloting roll-offs (say, Lashunta pilot-oriented ace pilot operative) then turrets are hyperefficient. But if you can't be sure of winning then you're better off spreading some weapons over all arcs so you can't be blindsided. Still, I don't like making the pilot roll-off such a more important than anything else factor of combat.

That's why I prefer my variant, "turrets can only fit small guns". You do want to win the piloting roll so you can move to bring the best guns on your ship to bear, but if you fail then you have the lesser weapon in the turret as a consolation prize. Turrets become a backup weapon against annoying faster ships.

Sovereign Court

One simple houserule to limit turrets would be to rule that you can only put short range weapons in turrets. If you insist on putting a bigger weapon in the turret, it behaves as if it were short range.


ascalaphus wrote:
That's why I prefer my variant, "turrets can only fit small guns". You do want to win the piloting roll so you can move to bring the best guns on your ship to bear, but if you fail then you have the lesser weapon in the turret as a consolation prize.

I use this variant, but allow huge and up sized ships to mount heavy turret weapons. It makes them more threatening, and PCs are unlikely to ever control them.

The second issue of shields, I've considered adding a tier based limit on what shields you can mount, but it hasn't mattered yet in play.


Ascalaphus wrote:
I don't think I've seen this variant before. But I'm not immediately sold, because it makes it even more important to win the piloting roll-off.

Yeah. We sort-of created it on the fly as we were playing. It fits the flow of the starship combat phases better. While the pilot is deciding where to move the ship to, the gunner in charge of the turret is deciding how to orient the turret. It takes the guesswork out of having to coordinate between those two roles in having the gunner have to orient the turret first before the pilot flies the ship. Ease of play is also an important thing.

And yes. Losing the piloting roll-off hurts. On the handful of times that it happened, they often decided to put the turret on the aft arc just so that they didn't have a blind spot with no weapon available to shoot back with.

Ascalaphus wrote:
That's why I prefer my variant, "turrets can only fit small guns". You do want to win the piloting roll so you can move to bring the best guns on your ship to bear, but if you fail then you have the lesser weapon in the turret as a consolation prize. Turrets become a backup weapon against annoying faster ships.

Yeah. This is my backup rule. If we decide that the current rules are too much, then I will likely switch to this.

Currently the players have a small point defence weapon on the turret. Their big gun is mounted on forward arc and they have a couple of moderate sized weapons on port and starboard. So switching to this rule would be seen as reverting a nerf more than a change. They wouldn't have to reconfigure the ship as a result at least.

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