Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

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Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Greywander on Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:17 am

EDIT: Now in GDoc!

So I've been working on crafting a space opera setting that's an alternate universe for MLP, and everything was going fine and dandy until I started discussing piloting with some people over Skype. What I originally hashed out was four utility talents that mirror the ones for flight:
Spoiler:
It’s Almost like Driving
Congratulations! By playing countless videogames, reading the manual, or just plain practice – you’ve gained the ability to pilot a space craft! However, piloting takes a lot of practice and right now… You kind of suck at it. You can pilot a ship with terrible maneuverability (you suffer a -10 penalty to piloting skill checks).

Space Academy
Prerequisite: It’s Almost Like Driving
Your piloting improves from terrible maneuverability to average maneuverability (you suffer a -5 penalty to piloting skill checks).

Star Chaser
Prerequisite: Space Academy
Your piloting improves from average maneuverability to good maneuverability (you suffer no penalty to piloting skill checks).

The Last Starfighter
Prerequisite: Star Chaser
You may roll twice on all piloting skill checks and take either result.
However, this pretty much means being the pilot is going to suck, because your party will expect you to sink four talents into piloting, and then you'll be next to useless on the ground. As Spoony said in one of his Counter Monkey videos, "Being the driver sucks." Because in order to fly a starship effectively, you'll have to sink a lot of utility talents into getting the requisite talents. And it's not just piloting. Navigation, engineering, operating sensors and communication gear, being a gunner, medical staff, etc., these are all technical fields that will require special training in order to perform with any sort of competence. We can't let everybody do everything, but it's going to suck to have to waste so many talent slots just to be able to fly a ship.

Then the conversation veered toward space combat, and how that would function. Obviously, one would expect that in order to fight competently, one would have to have the requisite utility talents to operate a particular station on the ship, like being a pilot, gunner, or engineer. But this violates the separation of combat and utility. On the other hand, space combat is a completely different beast from personal combat. This lead me to the conclusion that what we need is to separate utility, combat, and ship operation into separate systems altogether. We already have systems for utility and combat, so what we need is to come up with a system for ship operation.

Each ship would likely have a list of stations: things like pilot, navigator, sensors, sick bay, gunner, shield generator, engineering, etc. Those of you who have watched Star Trek and/or played FTL: Faster Than Light will know what I'm talking about. A character can only man one station at a time, and a character who is not manning a station is essentially useless (or, at least, on the bench). Therefore, it becomes important to make sure that you have a ship to match your crew, and vice versa. Too many stations, and you're undermanned, too few, and you have a bunch of people standing around doing nothing. Some stations might combine functions, for example, a one man fighter would have everything in one station, whereas a much larger ship with a larger and more specialized crew will divide up the functions into individual stations.

Something to note here, is that ship operation would have both an out of combat and in combat effect. However, these would all be tied to the same general abilities, so I don't see it being nearly as critical to separate these like we do with personal utility and personal combat talents. Dodging asteroids or bringing your ship into dock with a space station takes the same skills as dodging torpedoes and lasers. It's less of a combat vs. utility, and more just general ship operation that happens to include both a combat and utility aspect. By isolating these from the personal combat and utility options, we should help to discourage the same sort of minmaxing and overspecialization that the original separation of combat and utility was meant to discourage.

As for the types of stations that could pop up on a star ship, here's a partial list based on some popular space operas (mostly Star Trek):

Captain - They make decisions and tell everyone how to work together so that the ship can function as a single unit. In combat, this would likely involve abilities like granting standard actions to crew members.
Pilot/Helm - They maneuver the ship. They dodge obstacles and threats, and perform spatial acrobatics. In combat, this would likely grant temp HP through evasive maneuvers.
Navigator - They figure out how to get to where you need to go.
Sensors - They read tactical data to provide the captain with information on objects and anomalies in the immediate vicinity.
Weapons - They control most of the guns from one console. Like Worf in TNG.
Gunner/Torpedo Bay - Loading and operating individual weapons on the ship. There may or may not be a central weapons console on a ship with these stations.
Engineering - They maintain the constant function of the ship. Mostly, this means the power source, but they also fix any part of the ship that gets broken. In combat, mostly pip generation.
Communications - Honestly I don't know what they do. I guess listen to the radio chatter until something important enough to bother the captain with comes up.
Sick Bay - They provide medical care to those who are sick or injured on the ship. Might fall more under utility than ship operation, though.
Shield Generator - This protects the ship from damage. This would likely set the HP of the ship (as well as consuming pips to heal), and when HP runs out, then individual parts of the ship would start taking damage from attacks and crewmen would get injured.

You kind of get the idea. Running a starship is no trivial task. Smaller ships will be simpler to run, larger, nicer ships will be more complicated. The system as a whole needs to be adaptable and intuitive enough that it's easy to understand while still providing enough depth. So let's hear your ideas.


Last edited by Greywander on Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  A1C Bronymous on Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:22 am

Combine Sensors and Comms. Both gather information, and sensoring will give the comm guy something to do in combat.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Greywander on Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:29 am

Bronymous wrote:Combine Sensors and Comms. Both gather information, and sensoring will give the comm guy something to do in combat.
In Star Trek, the stations were separate. But that's kind of missing the point. The Enterprise is a huge ship; I'm sure a smaller ship would likely combine the two stations into one. The question, though, is what exactly do the stations do? The bigger question is, how will the system work together as a whole? I've started by assuming space combat will function similarly to personal combat, but haven't gone far beyond that. When doing "utility" ship operation stuff (like repairing a busted shield generator), are you going to be rolling skill checks? Do we need an entirely separate list of skills just for ship operation? Or should it perhaps work in an entirely different manner?

I need everyone to throw all their crazy ideas out there, and we'll sift through and see what seems like it would work best.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  sunbeam on Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:33 am

Alright new gameplay mechanics. We want to keep it very simple so it’s easy for other people to get and so that we can actually make it internally consistent and functional. Here are some ideas:

NOTE: I completely focused on the combat system here, not how the attributes might contribute to running the ship out of combat. Maybe we could use the attributes in combat, and the skills could be uses for non-combat navigation (this will make infinitely more sense after you finish reading the post)

The basic tenet of my idea is the unit of combat is the ship. The ship has one pip pool and one hp pool, but everyone gets to take their own actions within the initiative order. PCs can be in different parts of the ship, and those areas of the ship allow for different combat talents to be used. For example, Let’s say that the 4 sections of the ship are the cockpit, the engines, the weapons bank, and the medical station.

Players in the cockpit would have access to talents that give temporary hp, generate pips, and a few interrupts, depending on the style and maneuverability of the craft. Players in the engines would have pip gaining moves (I want to give the engine supercharge so bad) and healing moves. Monkey’s Backfist, since it’s the closest thing we have to a maneuverability manipulator, would fit too. Players at the weaponry would largely be heavy, damage dealing moves, but with some quirks depending on the ship.

The medical station is really awkward. I basically want to give it the necromancy talents (not the skeleton ones, the temporary hp ones), and some support buff abilities, but it would also need the medical stations primary function, bringing people back to consciousness in the case of an accident. Losing a set of actions in a coordinated team battle like this can be disastrous, and getting the whole team back in the game would definitely become a top priority, so we’d have to think of something. Heck, maybe we could just give them Miracle. I don’t know.

Players could move between the different areas of the ship with a standard action, moving wherever they’re needed while still being able to provide some small aid that turn, so it doesn’t feel like it’s a waste, but rather a strategic switch. The pros to this sort of setup is that as far as I can tell, this can be flavored to feel like a crew working together to run a ship in combat, taking damage, preparing for attacks, blasting the enemy, healing their wounded, and all the other badassery we’ve seen on Star Trek over the years. It also lets you add flavor to the ship by setting its combat talents. Maybe one ship deploys lots of mini ships via remote control, and has summoner talents, while another frigate has personal healing moves, Form of the Juggernaut, and It’s Over! I would not want to fight that.

One of the cons with this barebones system is that there’s no specialization. Right now everyone is like a red shirt, capable of doing everything everyone else can. Here are a two different suggestions of mine to make people feel like their characters are specialized space travelers:

-Classes. I know this isn’t really the Pony Tales style, but I think the simplest possible way to sort ship combat is to have classes. Each area of the ship has a different set of combat talents. Different classes can utilize more or less combat talents in different areas of the ship. Changing areas costs a standard action, and every area of the ship has at least one minor action. This means different classes will be highly useful in different places, but can still contribute in other areas.

-Attributes. I really prefer this one. This is like Classes but more open-ended, and allows for more generalization. Basically, we set up another 4 ship-based attributes. As random examples, let’s say Piloting, Engineering, Weapons, and Medical. It’s hard to justify distinctions between the medical attribute and the heal skill, but it would help to avoid blurring the line between different facets of gameplay. In any case, the four attributes are scored the same way the normal attributes are at character creation. Maybe we could automatically treat everyone as though they had specialist and overachiever, and had a min of 3 and a max of 12. Then, each different area of the ship has many different combat talents that can be used there, but different talents can only be used if you have a sufficient score in the given attribute.

For example, Using Knife in the Dark (reflavored as “split ray”) would only require a Weapons score of 7, while using Frostfall (the “photon bomb”) would require a Weapons score of 10, or maybe even 12. Maybe on the Piloting deck you could use Form of the Serene Armadillo (“Shields up!”) if you had a piloting score of 5, but you’d need a score of 9 or 10 to use Flash Step (is a rename actually necessary here?).

We’d have to decide the particulars of the metric, but the basic abilities of your character on the ship would be determined at level 1, and then the major upgrade you get with time is a better ship with better abilities. Also, we could give you extra attribute points as you leveled up. We could start with the basis that a level 10 character is about twice as effective in combat as a level 1 character, and base the upgrades off that.

EDIT: I forgot about one of the major tactics of space combat, zone targetting! Basically, maybe the captain and the weapons dock would have minor utilities that lets the next attack of the spaceship deal damage to a certain zone of the ship, knocking out personell in that area. For example, the first move of a captain could be to designate the opposing ship's weapons dock as the next target, at which point this ship's weapons dock rams Furious Rage (um...nuclear waste bombs? The more they've trashed the engine room, the stronger it gets?) down their throats, knocking out one of the personell in the enemy weapons dock. It's then the job of someone from the medical bay to go down to the weapons dock, retrieve the unconscious personell, take them back to the medical bay, nurse them back to health, and send them back down to the weapons dock. All this time whoever else was there has to cover for their missing comrade, and the lack of an extra set of actions will definitely hurt the ship's ability to strike back. See the tactical ideas?
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Greywander on Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:51 am

I like a lot of what you've got there. Although, I wouldn't think that if someone were seriously injured, that they would be able to be healing quickly enough to participate in the same battle they were injured in. I see the medical bay as more of a portable medical facility, and possibly not actually relevant to running the ship itself. You're utility healer is going to find work there, I don't know that we need to make it a part of ship operation.

So I might say replace the Medical attribute with something like Data. They would read the sensors, navigate, look for weak points, operating drones, etc. Basically handling all the information that could give you an edge in combat. So they might grant bonuses to the actions of another crewmember (bonus damage to the guy on weapons, extra temp HP from the pilot's maneuvering, etc.). Also, I feel like the captain is an important part of running a ship, so we might need a Leadership attribute. In fact, consider this: a crew with a competent captain might get double or even triple the number of actions that a captainless crew would. This makes disabling the captain an actually effective tactic, if you can pull it off. The captain would be sort of a superpowered warlord class. Because the captain is just as, if not more important than any of the other guys.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Greywander on Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:49 pm

Okay, I started a GDoc so we could keep track of what we've got so far. I also went into some detail to outline some basics of how the whole system will work together.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Azureink on Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:50 pm

Still seems more complicated than it should be for this system. Unfortunately as I am typing this I am not 100% sure what I would do to make it easier.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Azureink on Wed May 22, 2013 7:16 pm

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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Wed May 22, 2013 7:24 pm

What about this?

Why not just say to everyone, "Let's just assume you're skilled enough to fly the ship. If you want to do anything extra tricksy during a flight - such as a thrilling chase sequence - you'll make skill checks. You might make mechanics to spark the engines, acrobatics or athletics to steer the ship, history to chart the best paths in the galaxy, perception to see things well enough to react to things in time... Nearly every skill could be useful in some way so don't sweat it. Let's just focus on having fun in space."

It's how I handle all the ship-stuff in my Evertide setting, where the ocean is ever-present.

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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Azureink on Sun May 26, 2013 11:54 am

I agree, but the main focus of this seems to be ship to ship combat. So perhaps you guys should just put a hp total to the ship and either make a "conjured weapon" type of thing where the combat talents are a set thing based off of the ship, or let the characters use all their talents and reflavor them to help the ship combat.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Stairc -Dan Felder on Sun May 26, 2013 4:57 pm

That might work well, creating specific talents for the players for ship-to-ship combat - which they gain access to while running the ship.


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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Cainx13 on Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:09 pm

If inspiration is needed, I do have the books from the 40k RPG Rogue Trader that deal with space combat. Though I may give some ideas after I read them.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

Post  Azureink on Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:56 pm

After reading up on Rogue Trader I can't see how it would help streamline this. Also, it would require a grid or something for the maneuvering.
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Re: Starfleet needs pilots, badly!

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