Saturday, January 2, 2016

Starship Combat

One of the things I want to do in Shards of Tomorrow (or Splinters of Tomorrow... I go back and forth) is make starship combat interesting and engaging. I like the whole 'flexible variety' concept, where you have a set of simple, clear rules that provide a wide range of creative possibilities. The GM never has to hand wave the results, because the rules give the framework, but the rules never tell you what you can't do, only provide options for what you can do. The other thing is that, in my experience, starship combat rarely involves the whole team. If you have five players, one of them is piloting, and maybe two of them are operating the guns... but the others are sitting around waiting.

Enter the rules for tinkering.

During combat, the character with tinkering (or jury rigging... or engineering... or whatever I end up calling it) is making rolls to do things. In my previous post on starships, I suggested some ideas that are (generally) still in play. However, the next layer is tinkering. The one doing said tinkering spends the combat working the internal systems, re-routing power, shutting down non-essential systems to improve others, and generally wringing all available usefulness out of the ship. The dependability mechanic works here, because the tinkering character trades dependability in the short term (1 turn) for short-term bonuses (1 turn). For example, a character (or even bot) of level 5 (level modifier 3) could provide up to 3 points of bonuses to various ship functions while also rolling Feats every round to give up some things. I think of Artoo and/or Chewbacca monkeying with controls and re-wiring systems on the fly, allowing the guns to deal more damage, increasing the Falcon's maneuverability temporarily, or re-setting  the shield generators after a squad of Tie Fighters has knocked them out. The ship just became a LOT more powerful because you've got someone working the controls inside to push it. Your first mate becomes a very valuable part of the team, and is making important decisions (and important rolls) during a starship battle that have a huge influence on how things play out.

And, the resource allocation that comes with rules for dependability make this even more engaging. Sure, you can try to re-route power to increase your speed, but you're going to do so risking blowing out your jump drive and crippling your ship. Want to try? Pick up the dice and roll...