Space combat expansion part 2: narrating space combat.

This expansion requires more careful planning on the GM, spontaneous creativity of both players and GM or perhaps some of those wonderful environmental set piece developed on the d20radio forum. Or all of the aforementioned.

The basic idea here is simple. Let pilots, and gunners and other crew, affect the battlefield, use it similarly to character scale combat. This means using terrain as cover, players describing actions that could give more tangible results and effects than what has already been suggested in the corebook’s various triumph/advantages tables. While those tables are great, and the idea of advantages and triumphs adding coolness to combat, and every other skill check, why not let players attempt actions or manoeuvres for those specific effects?

While evasive manoeuvres is a great manoeuvre, how about it in an asteroid field? In a squadron of allied starfighters, or enemy starfighters, couldn’t that one upgrade be increased if there was a pilot check? Or perhaps increase defence by +1? Shouldn’t there be a Pilot check for performing an evasive manoeuvre in an asteroid field? I’d think so! Even if its “only” a manoeuvre.

Now. Another thing I think is important, and that seems to be left out of most discussions concerning space combat – or at least I haven’t seen it anywhere – is how the interpretation of fire arcs being pointless on ships of Silhouette 4 or lower could easily be remedied.

Now, I understand the interpretation, but what if the Pilot was in control (as she or he actually is) of facing and things like that. Why would a gunner in a turret, or firing a fixed position cannon decide whether or not she or he can hit the enemy vessel? It doesn’t really make sense, well it could, but the idea is here to make these things count, without counting squares and stuff like that. Let the pilot narrate how he flies on his initiative slot, how the ship moves, how he lines up his own shots or that of his gunners. This would of course be modified by actions such as Gain the Advantage, but as is explicitly written in the rules – although many disagree with this “interpretation” – the GtA action’s effects applies to the pilot. Not every gunner on the ship. Of course it is a common interpretation/house-rule to allow it to apply to gunners as well. I’ve done the exact same thing. But in the spirit of making it more narrative, to weigh the various options against each other, I’d suggest to apply the GtA effects apply only to the pilot. That way he has to also narrate movement of the ship, but also consider how to attack the ship, and which of his fire arcs should be able to hit it, even as he attempts a Gain the Advantage action. This in turn will affect how his gunners and crew can act.

While a lot of starships have turrets, sometimes you need to flee, at this point the decisions of the Pilot affects the fire arcs that can attack. How he narrates he escape attempt, is it the ventral or dorsal turret that is allowed to fire? Considering this, I think it is sometimes up to the GM, and players, to let the narrative decide which defensive zone is hit, regardless of actions and mechanics of what silhouette gets to pick what defensive zone is hit. It is much more fun to let the narrative steer this, than to use (or abuse) the rules to make those hits count – particularly from a GMs perspective I’d say.

If my players where fleeing down a chasm, or through a tunnel of some sort, I’d never allow a successful Gain the Advantage check to result in hitting an unhittable defensive zone to hit. That wouldn’t make sense. I’d ignore any evasive manoeuvres certainly, but the defensive zone hit would be the one that made narrative sense. Same with players. While I’d say a pilot attacking an enemy ship after successfully Gained the Advantage could pick a defensive zone of his liking, the narration of his attack and manoeuvring would determine what defensive zone the other gunners on his ship could attack, whether the same one or a better defended one would depend on his narration, the environment and the number of threats or advantages he rolled on his pilot and/or attack check. So in short, let chases and mechanics be support structures, not determining rails on which the game is run.

These thoughts can easily be used with the actions presented in part 1, but it might not be necessary to make use of those actions if taking full advantage of the narrative creativity of the players and losing the dependency on mechanics and rules as a controller.

A good example of how one can run space combat is presented here, first posted here. Thanks to Grimmshade/D. Thomas for this, he did a lot of work for me without knowing.

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