I was going to wait until tomorrow until I did another post (since the last one was so meaty), but then I realized that today was the last day of January, and I have done 39 posts this month (all substantial by the way - all killer no filler is the way). I couldn't let it go without getting a 40th in under the wire. I could do my next worldbuilding post, but I'd rather let that simmer for a little bit longer in my subconcious (it's about a 'thin slice' by the way, to whet your appetite, as if it needs whetting). So, I'll go with a preview of something I just wrote for Shards that I really like. I'm not sure why my gaming philosophy is a bit different for this game, but it is. I'm not really trying to write rules - I'm working on a simulation of the source material. How do I mechanically solve the moments I see in my head in the simplest way? I think about the various mass combat rules I've written before, and I thought they were pretty good at the time. There were maybe ten questions you'd ask to build a framework, and then you'd do a series of rolls to determine how combat went.
This is SO much better. My mass combat rules drafts of the past have always had the actions of the PCs be an important part of the mix. Now, I've realized they are all that really matters. The fight is happening in the background, but the mission the PCs are on has to be central to victory or defeat; the PCs win, and we all win. The PCs lose, and we'll all have to re-group and try again tomorrow (unless everyone is dead. Then maybe not). That said, here are the few paragraphs that solve everything I've solved in about five pages in the past:
Big Ships, Space Stations, and Other Set Pieces
The vehicle rules presume that any starship involved is small enough that it could be destroyed in combat between small numbers of adversaries. When it comes to larger ships, and there are such things (although they are rare), or larger objects in space such as space stations and orbital ports, it is best to view these as locations and set pieces rather than piles of hit points. If the story leads towards their possible destruction, it is better to mechanically solve this in other ways than resorting to figuring out the whole thing’s armor class, shields, hull, and hit points. For example, the heroes lead an assault on a messari battle carrier that comes through a wormhole. That thing is BIG - four kilometers long and filled with messari, but the PC crew has managed to align all of the local guilds to assault that thing. Okay. Rather than working out the statistics for each part of the battle carrier, construct the scenario in another way.
Once the assault on the carrier begins, the crew’s mission is to disable the carrier’s wormhole navigation system. That system is mounted on the back of the carrier, has an AC of 20, hull of 10, and 50 hit points. The heroes have one turn to do it, and there will be 1D4+1 messari shadowblade interceptors joining combat against the PCs at the beginning of rounds 1, 4, and 7. The dozens of other ships are engaging other messari craft, neutralizing gun positions, and taking part in the larger space battle. It’s all in the background. Each round, 1D4 allies and 1D4 messari gun positions are destroyed. If either gets to 20 total losses, the crew either receives +2 to all future actions (if all enemy gun positions have been destroyed, and your allies are now only engaging interceptors) or suffers -2 to all future actions (as there are now a few more guns and other interceptors at the periphery that are creating distractions). At the end of one turn, either the messari battle carrier starts to collapse under the weight of all of this damage, or it reaches the edge of the wormhole and is able to jump through, escaping to repair and plot its vengeance. This all makes for a more interesting encounter that is easier to manage, and feels as though it has genuine stakes. It makes a big space battle feel different from a skirmish between a few smaller vehicles, because it is.