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Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

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  • #16
    Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

    Yeah, this is definitely the sort of thing where you need a list of defined choices for the GM. Otherwise you end up with someone choosing the multiattack option for the potential damage bonus and then being torn apart by someone who dumped their points into a sniper rifle.

    On the other hand...

    Range 4, no ranks of extended range: 30/60/120 metres, or range ranks 2/3/4. Using the flat +10 gets us range ranks 12/13/14, using the closing speed bonus gets us 25/26/27.

    Range 12, extended range 4: 1600/3200/6400 metres, or range ranks 8/9/10. Using the flat +10 gets us range ranks 18/19/20, using the closing speed bonus gets us 31/32/33.

    In either case using range ranks instead of ranges in metres or feet flattens out the numbers a bit and makes them easier to handle, and it makes the difference in ranges easier to spot right off the bat (And it avoids the whole 'Crashing into Mars because someone forgot to convert the units' business). I would go with the idea of using range ranks for space ranges just based on simplicity. I personally prefer a flat +10, but can see the appeal of using closing speed ranks as the bonus. List both as options, depending on the GM's preference.
    Last edited by Ian Wright; 03-01-2016, 07:04 PM.

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    • #17
      Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

      Right but if you're traveling speed 23 (or ~30,000 miles per round), range 12-20 simply doesn't mean much.

      I think for purposes of game balance you want to avoid the acceleration in speed. Instead assume all long distance travel is done in jumps, and is a series of instantaneous jumps, that allow for no combat.

      Then, combat stays at normal m&m range and speed, and people can leave or enter combat as normal for m&m.

      Then since people will want to use jumps to exit combat (since its an auto get out of combat free card), create a skill check, maybe tech, or vehicles, and allow opposed rolls. If the jumper wins, they jump out; if the other wins, then they jump to the same place, with no effective change in combat position.
      Ragtop, Autobot! And Zeanthara, Are You a God?
      Fenix, in the Merge, and Alicia DeVries, in the Cosmic Merge
      Supe of the Justice League Academy

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      • #18
        Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

        Okay, 2 fast attack craft (FACs) approaching each other at maximum speed 23, for a total closing speed of rank 24. Their weapons are:

        Particle Beam: Ranged Damage 12 - Base ranges 100/200/400 metres, range ranks 4/5/6
        Laser: Ranged Damage 10, Extended Range 4 - Base ranges 1300/2600/5200 metres, range ranks 8/9/10
        Missiles: Ranged Damage 18, Homing 6, Unreliable (5 Uses) - Base ranges 150/300/600 metres, range ranks 5/6/7

        With the flat +10 range, their ranges are:

        14/15/16
        18/19/20
        15/16/17

        At these ranges the FACs can engage each other with a -5 circumstance penalty at distance rank 20 using lasers. The circumstance penalty for lasers drops to -2 at rank 19, and at rank 18 they have no penalty to target each other with lasers. At rank 17 they can target each other with missiles, but with only 5 missiles on hand they will probably wait to rank 16. At rank 16 the penalty drops to -2, which is worth taking a shot. Also at rank 16, they have their first opportunity to open up on one another with their particle beams. At rank 15 they will probably launch most of their missiles. At rank 14 the particle beams have no penalty.

        On the other hand: Distance 20 - Speed 24 = Time rank -4. The two FAC close the distance from 'extreme range' to 'sitting on top of one another' in .25 seconds, and then zip away from one another equally fast.

        So much for my nice simple +10 range bonus. Oh well.

        Using the closing speed as the range bonus, the weapon ranges become:

        Particle Beam: 28/29/30
        Laser: 32/33/34
        Missiles: 29/30/31

        Extreme range is rank 34. Distance 34 - Speed 24 = Time rank 10. The two FACs have two hours to fry each other with lasers. Oh well.

        Using 1/2 closing speed, rounded up, gives a +12 bonus. The weapon ranges become:

        Particle Beam: 16/17/18
        Laser: 20/21/22
        Missiles: 17/18/19

        Extreme range is rank 22. Distance 22 - Speed 24 = Time rank -2. One second. Getting closer.

        Dropping the particle beams for this comparison and adding three ranks of extended range to the remaining weapons gives us:

        Laser: 23/24/25
        Missiles: 20/21/22

        Which puts extreme range combat at maximum possible velocities at 2 rounds. Given that this is the absolute extreme of high-speed combat in open space, where both combatants have had as much time as possible to accelerate, most fights will probably take place at much lower speeds. We're getting into the right area here.

        (I dropped the particle beams from the last example because at extreme range/high speed combat, a short-range high-damage weapon is useless. It might still be an option for close-in combat.)

        The missiles are launched from relatively short range, but once they lock on to a target they're almost impossible to shake off. If you drop Unreliable you have to lower Damage or Homing though. As is, they make good weapons for small craft to use against heavier ships or armoured stations.

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        • #19
          Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

          Originally posted by Nelphine View Post
          Right but if you're traveling speed 23 (or ~30,000 miles per round), range 12-20 simply doesn't mean much.

          I think for purposes of game balance you want to avoid the acceleration in speed. Instead assume all long distance travel is done in jumps, and is a series of instantaneous jumps, that allow for no combat.

          Then, combat stays at normal m&m range and speed, and people can leave or enter combat as normal for m&m.

          Then since people will want to use jumps to exit combat (since its an auto get out of combat free card), create a skill check, maybe tech, or vehicles, and allow opposed rolls. If the jumper wins, they jump out; if the other wins, then they jump to the same place, with no effective change in combat position.
          Oh well sure, if you want to do things the easy way...

          That works a lot better than my earlier ideas. Just say that accelerating in a straight line leaves you Defenceless. That would mean your opponent could snipe you well before you made it into combat, or if you tried to accelerate out of combat. Then all combat is done at normal speeds and ranges.

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          • #20
            Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

            Okay, continuing on from the last idea...

            The Earth-Mars distance is rank 36. Using the acceleration rules from my earlier posts a tech level 5 attack fleet that wanted to travel between the worlds could do so in (Distance 36 - maximimum possible velocity 16) +1 for deceleration = Time rank 21, ~4 months. Assuming the fleet has a massive infrastructure and is using state-of-the-art boosters to travel the distance, the maximim possible velocity is 19. That gives a travel time of 18, or 2 weeks.

            (Digression: If you think that seems fast for current technology, which is what TL 5 is supposed to be, you're absolutely right. Just assume that there are no technical or diplomatic problems with nuclear pulse propulsion, or that Zubrin's proposed nuclear-salt water rocket is a viable technology instead of a nightmarish death trap.)

            However, during the acceleration-coast-deceleration phases of the trip, the attack fleet is Defenceless. This means the other planet's military satellites can take potshots at it for weeks or months. Sure there's a massive circumstance penalty for distance, but it's a routine check. They'll pick the fleet apart before it can move to attack formation.
            Last edited by Ian Wright; 03-03-2016, 10:38 AM. Reason: Updated for new acceleration phases

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            • #21
              Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

              That brings up the next point - defenses.

              Recall that each size rank of a vehicle is +4 toughness and -2 defenses, the same as for a character.

              I would guess that a 1 man fighter is probably huge (size rank 0, the size of a small transport truck). Therefore, it defaults to toughness 8, defenses -4 before any other point expenditures to represent high tech.

              Similarly, a 100 person cruiser is probably size 4, or toughness 24, defenses -12.

              Note that those are also the default scores for civilian ships of the same size. So military ones should probably be a little tougher (+1 to +4 depending on tech) and much more maneuverable (probably increasing defenses to PL cap).

              Next, I'd assume that same 1 man fighter is probably PL 11, or 12, depending on tech. The cruiser is probably ~14.

              Thus puts your fighter at Toughness 12, Defenses 10, and your Cruiser at Toughness 27, Defenses 1.

              Note the ridiculous Toughness. Perception range weapons would virtually never hurt larger ships.

              (A Dreadnought might be PL 18, Toughness 40+, with negative defenses.)


              (A total side note: I would suggest crafting ships as vehicles, specifically for Defenses instead of Dodge/Parry which doesn't make much sense in space).


              Are these the kind of scores you were imagining?

              Final note: once you have defenses worked out, you then simply design weapons to match. Main guns on a given ship are designed to fight itself, which means they have a very small chance to hit smaller ships, but if they do, they vaporize the smaller ship. Larger ships are forced to carry point defense weaponry simply to have s chance of hitting smaller ships, and such weaponry is designed around whatever size ship it us meant to fight. Smaller ships that want to hurt larger ships would turn into bombers - they'd have very high rank damage, but attack bonuses so low they couldn't hit themselves. Permit negative attack modifiers on ships so large that they have negative defenses, so that their weapons stay balanced against themselves, or smaller ships built to attack such large ships.
              Last edited by Nelphine; 03-01-2016, 08:32 PM.
              Ragtop, Autobot! And Zeanthara, Are You a God?
              Fenix, in the Merge, and Alicia DeVries, in the Cosmic Merge
              Supe of the Justice League Academy

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              • #22
                Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                I had it roughly broken down by Power Level, using the idea from Mecha for PL Tiers.

                Fighters: PL x1.5 (Small, fast, usually with weak armour/forcefields) Size Rank 0
                Cutters: PL x2 (Fast, more armour/forcefields than fighters, not as tough as SoftL; Usually armed freehaulers or pirate ships) Size Rank 1+
                Ships of the Line: PL x2.5 (Heavily armoured, with several major weapons, intended to withstand prolonged combat) Size Rank 4+
                Dreadnoughts: PL x3 (Massively armoured, often barely mobile, with weapons capable of slagging smaller ships) Size Rank 8+

                So for a game where the PCs are PL 6, fighters would be PL 9, cutters would be PL 12, ships of the line would be PL 15, and dreadnoughts would be PL 18. For a PL 8 game that would be 12-16-20-24, which is about as far as up the scale as most games go.

                I've always found the vehicle rules to be a bit off. They work, but they were pretty clearly jerryrigged to get a specific set of results. I prefer building vehicles with the construct rules. Dodge is fine in space: It just represents evasive manoeuvres. Parry might seem odd, but since starships have disabled Fighting anyways they have no Parry score (This is why Jedi can use lightsabers to attack vehicles without the vehicle just scraping them off on a nearby object).

                This needs more development, but I have work tomorrow. I'll come back to this tomorrow evening. Thanks for your help.

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                • #23
                  Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                  That matches fairly close to what I was suggesting, although I like the flexible power levels. That's a nice touch. Still, that gives you a rough idea of Toughness and Damage rank.

                  I bring that up because of the idea of Defenseless (or Perception weapons). With large ship Dodge (or Defense) scores, it really skews how dangerous those two things are.
                  Ragtop, Autobot! And Zeanthara, Are You a God?
                  Fenix, in the Merge, and Alicia DeVries, in the Cosmic Merge
                  Supe of the Justice League Academy

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                    Cleaned up the option regarding major systems a bit. When I get home this evening I'm going to test the combat ideas and if I have time I'll post my observations tonight.
                    Last edited by Ian Wright; 03-03-2016, 10:25 AM.

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                    • #25
                      Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                      Forgot I had family coming in to visit. It'll be a day or two before I can post any combat results. In the meantime I cleaned up the long-distance space travel rules a bit to reflect hindsight and Nelphine's input.

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                      • #26
                        Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                        Originally posted by Ian Wright View Post
                        So for a game where the PCs are PL 6, fighters would be PL 9, cutters would be PL 12, ships of the line would be PL 15, and dreadnoughts would be PL 18. For a PL 8 game that would be 12-16-20-24, which is about as far as up the scale as most games go.

                        I've always found the vehicle rules to be a bit off. They work, but they were pretty clearly jerryrigged to get a specific set of results. I prefer building vehicles with the construct rules. Dodge is fine in space: It just represents evasive manoeuvres. Parry might seem odd, but since starships have disabled Fighting anyways they have no Parry score (This is why Jedi can use lightsabers to attack vehicles without the vehicle just scraping them off on a nearby object).
                        I like the rules you worked out, in particular the fact that they seem to be functional for getting characters to interact with ships. I mean I can see Green Lantern or Superman tangling with a Thanagarian battle cruiser with these rules.
                        My Current Campaign: [URL="https://earth-82.obsidianportal.com"]Earth-82[/URL] (WIP)

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                        • #27
                          Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                          I particularly like the idea of PL24 Dreadnoughts because they should be unstoppable by even teams of superheroes

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                          • #28
                            Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                            Thanks for the feedback. I apologize for abandoning this thread for so long, but 2016 has been a bit of a train wreck (Current rate of family members dead or dying: 1 per month). I have some more material that I'll post tonight and over the next couple of days; This is just a quick drop-in to let interested people know that the thread isn't dead.

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                            • #29
                              Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                              RANGES

                              I started with a rule of thumb: Small fighters should have enough basic sensors to give them a 2 round warning of fast-approaching opponents, or at least have a chance to spot those opponents before they close to combat range.

                              At Tech Level 5's maximum velocity of rank 16 a 2-round warning (Time rank 2) gives a distance rank of 18 (2000 kilometres): TL 5 small fighters should have 5 ranks in an extended range sense, giving them a -1 circumstance penalty to Perception checks per 300 metres. Not including the pilot's or sensor operator's Perception bonus or any bonus or penalty for target size:

                              At 300 m: -1
                              At 600 m: -2
                              At 900 m: -3
                              At 1200 m: -4
                              At 1500 m: -5
                              At 1800 m: -6
                              At 2100 m: -7
                              At 2400 m: -8
                              At 2700 m: -9
                              At 3000 m: -10

                              So a competent sensor operator should be able to detect a high-velocity object early enough to give the pilot time to prepare for combat - Unless the object is stealthed or approaches from an unexpected/unlikely direction. Fighter craft, particularly in fiction, typically have bare-bones sensor systems and often their long-range sensors are directional. Give most standard fighters the needed extended ranks in some sort of vision to represent long-range optics and fewer extended ranks in a radius sense to represent close-in radar or ladar.

                              At TL 5 fighters should have 5 ranks of Extended Range (Vision/Infravision/Ultravision/Etc). Add 1 rank Extended Range per TL, to a maximum of 8 ranks.

                              Larger ships or small craft intended for sensor missions should not only have 1 or 2 more ranks of Extended Range (Vision/Infravision/Ultravision/Etc), they should also have more senses. Long-range radar obviously (Or the ultratech version of radar), but also magnetic anomaly detectors (Detect: Metals and Electromagnetic Equipment), mass detectors (Detect: Massive Objects), and senses with Penetrates Concealment or Counters Concealment.

                              Bits I don't like about this:

                              Increasing Perception range by orders of magnitude per rank while everything else in the game doubles per rank is just clunky. If there's ever a 4th Edition or updated 3rd, I'd suggest that Perception should be changed to doubling per rank of Extended. Or maybe I'll just houserule it if I'm ever bothered enough.

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                              • #30
                                Re: Alternate Space Travel Rules For Science Fiction Settings

                                POWER LEVELS AND SHIP CLASSES

                                The ship classes here are gleefully stolen from the Space Opera Combat Rules that David Pulver wrote for a previous edition of GURPS. I love SJG for their settings and design books, but never enjoyed actually playing GURPS as a game.

                                Characters: Series Power Level (Sample: PL 4)
                                Fighter Tier: Series PL x1.5 (Sample: PL 6)
                                Cutter Tier: Series PL x2 (Sample: PL 8)
                                Ship of the Line Tier: Series PL x2.5 (Sample: PL 12)
                                Dreadnought Tier: Series PL x3 (Sample: PL 16)

                                Fighters
                                Fighters are small, fast, and agile. Rather than depending on armour or defensive fields (Passive defences) they instead rely on their manoeuvrability for protection (Active defenses). They also have low endurance and usually only a single pilot. Usually they are Large, but fully automated fighters may be Medium or even smaller. There are rare examples of Huge fighters.

                                Because they depend on their active defences for protection, I suggest building fighters as mecha rather than vehicles. Using the mecha rules from the Gadget Guides means that the fighter's abilities (Except for Stamina, Intellect, and Presence, which mecha as constructs lack) replace the pilot's abilities while using the pilot's skills. This gives fighters the higher active defences they need. Larger ships should be designed with the vehicle rules.

                                Cutters
                                Cutters are any ship that mounts multiple weapons, but can't bear the brunt of prolonged combat. They have more defensive systems than fighters, but any heavy fire will overwhelm them quickly.

                                Civilian cutters include freighters with cargo space sacrificed for weapons and shields (The Millennium Falcon) or courier ships outfitted as fast-attack ships by pirates.

                                Military cutters include any number of ships designed for specialized purposes: Bombers, armoured landing craft, sensor ships, or others.

                                Ships of the Line
                                Ships of the Line are designed for prolonged combat. They have heavy weapons, heavy defences, and the endurance to fight for hours or even days. They have the best armour or force screens available to absorb damage, and huge crews to absorb losses when the defences fail. Ships of the line mount multiple heavy guns.

                                Dreadnoughts
                                The actual naval dreadnoughts were ships of the line that fell out of favour as other designs were developed. Science fiction offers multiple examples of overwhelmingly huge mobile weapons platforms that fall outside of their setting's normal power range, so the term dreadnought applies here to those monstrosities. Mobile battle stations, miles-long starships, indestructible military bases built into moons...

                                Crews
                                Anything larger than a fighter should have several independent weapons (Not Alternate Effects) and the crew to operate all those weapons during battle. Cutters may be short-handed, particularly civilian ships, but military craft carry multiple gunners (And sensor operators, mechanics, etc) for a reason. Since ships of the line are usually massive, they would be sitting ducks without the protection offered by having a half-dozen or more weapons blazing away. Minimally-competent crews can be bought with the Feature: Personnel, but more skilled crew members should probably be Minions or Sidekicks (R2-D2 and Chewbacca come to mind as Sidekicks, although Han might be Chewie's sidekick).

                                Small ships versus large ships
                                Smaller ships are generally outclassed by a larger ship's armour and weapons unless they can get in to close range. Getting in to close range means the smaller ship must be at least 2 size categories smaller than the larger ship and must approach to within short range of both ship's weapons. Once within short range the pilot of the small ship engages the gunner or sensor operator targeting them in a contest of skills. The pilot attempts to win a cumulative 3 degrees of success against their opponent within 5 rounds: If the pilot wins the gunner or sensor operator has lost them from their scope, and the pilot can engage the larger ship at will. If the pilot losses, the gunner can make their next attack against the pilot at a +2 circumstance bonus.

                                Small ships that have successfully closed with large ships can target individual features (Weapons mounts, sensor platforms, or other features of the craft) as defenceless objects. This allows fighters to gradually whittle down ships of the line as they take out key features one by one.

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