Random Things you might hear on the comms

These random things articles are designed as quick idea generators for time-pressed GMs who want to inject some additional details into their game, in this post we take a step into science-fiction and provide you with a series of possible space communication calls. When you need some inspiration just roll a D20 and consult the table: Continue reading

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 18: RULES BREAKDOWN

I’ve been asked a couple of times to give more details about the actually rules, etc used during the sessions, but since I didn’t want to break up the narrative I thought that i’d separate this stuff out into it’s own post, let me know what you think.
The original post can be found here.

With the second wave of enemy ships approaching Lord Admiral Black looked around at the ragged remnant of his fleet and took stock of the force that he has to take on the encroaching heretics, his flagship, the Venerus, was largely untouched (aside from some minor cosmetic damage), the Lunatic Pandorawas functional but had sustained heavy damaged and the Rod Hant was currently fighting off boarders from the first wave of the enemy, and they had only a couple of days before the mainstay of Lorgar Khan’s fleet arrived.

Each of the ships used in this combat had a series of stress boxes worth 1 stress and no consequences; medium ships has three such boxes, with larger ships having four and extremely large ships having five. The ships broke down as follows:
Venerus (players flagship) [] [] [] []
Lunatic Pandora (players) [] [] []
Clan ships (including the Rod Hant + the enemy clan ships) [] [] []
Dark Omen (traitor space marine battle barge) [] [] [] [] []
The Venerus has been established as having an elite crew previously in the game so received a +2 bonus to attack/defence rolls, the Rod Hant was severely damaged in the previous combat and so received a -2 to attack/defence rolls.
The Dark Omen is also crewed by elites and so received a +2 bonus to attack and defence rolls.

Over the course of the first day Admiral Black helped Captain Pak repel the boarders on the Rod Hant and eventually they succeeding in killing the last one, although a lengthy check for sabotage and explosives did means that they did not have time to fully repair the extensive damage that the Rod Hant had sustained in the previous combat. Realising that, in their present shape, they could not hope to challenge the mighty Battle Barge of the traitor AstartedLorgar Khan they concocted a desperate plan whereby they would use the ancient teleportarium aboard the Venerus to teleport a fire-linked collection of krak missiles and other explosives into the engine room of the enemy vessel.

The players were offered the choice of thoroughly ensuring that the Rod Hant was free of sabotage, but in return not having time to repair it (and taking a -2 penalty in the fight) or repairing it but potentially having some saboteurs or explosives on board (that may have been used for compels later); knowing that the fight was going to be a close one they chose the former option.

As they readied themselves for combat on the second day, Admiral Black sat on the bridge watching the approaching fleet, his wife at his side and placed his head in his hands; suddenly he was no longer on the bridge of the Venerus but was standing in the royal chambers on his homeworld of Telec Prime, groups of panicked medical technicians were running down a corridor towards a room that he recognised as belong to his father Macharius Black, almost without thinking the Admiral followed them. In the room Macharius, looking sickly, his eyes yellowed and his face (which bore a striking resemblance to that of the Admiral) pale, he was railing against the med-techs who appeared to be informing him that his treatments were no longer proving effective; shouting that there was none to take his place leading the family if he died, Macharius ordered them to send for his sons, there must be other technology out there that could preserve his life. 

One of the established character Aspects of Lord Admiral Fortunus Black is that he suffers from blackouts; the player was offered a fate point to reveal some of the plot using this Aspect and accepted leading to the above scene unfolding.

A voice called out to Admiral Black and he jerked awake in the command chair, his wife Lady Dominique Decusis-Black was shaking his arm and looking at him in a concerned manner, but he waved away her concerns saying that he was fine. Captain Pak had finished adapting one of the damaged murder servitors from the Lunatic Pandora and had wired it into the trigger mechanism of the bomb that they had constructed, as the first enemy ships entered range and began to open fire with macro-batteries Pak began to have the teleportarium chamber prepped for dispatch; Navigator York Benetec had been psychically scanning the area and relayed the coordinates for the likely location of the engine room about the enemy battle barge. 

The Venerus was discovered and salvaged in-game with an archeotech teleportarium aboard it, this has been modelled in Fate using a Stunt that once per game session allows them to teleport a small party (or the equivalent mass) from anywhere within the same system to the Venerus or from the Venerus to anywhere in the system (that they have the coordinates to). In desperation the players decided to use it to transport a large amount of explosives aboard the approaching battle barge, their tech (Captain Pak) was required to make some risky rolls to connect them all up without explosive results, but he easily passed them.

As his mind probed the area of space around them, Benetec felt another presence and, sensing that it was not hostile, allowed it to make contact with him; Benetec found himself on a prosperous world of fluted silver towers and happy people, the hazy psychic projection of the chaos sorceror Kantor Pilusfloating next to him. Pilus showed Benetec how his homeworld had been devastated by the Astartes after their leader had attempted to use forbidden sorcery to warn the Emperor of treachery from within, “although we were right, this was our reward” mocked the sorceror with a touch of sadness in his voice. Pilus attempted to persuade Benetec that if they just handing the ancient recording device to Lorgar that much bloodshed could be avoided, Benetec refused and broke off the psychic connection. 

York Benetec’s player was offered a fate point to reveal some of the plot (in a manner similar to the blackout earlier) and accepted; this scene was RP entirely sans-dice and was more about the choices that the player would make.

The space around Strive filled with escape pods and short range craft as the survivors of ruined ships on both sides sort to make their way planet side; the remaining enemy clan ship attempted to flee, laying mines to cover it’s tracks but it was destroyed by the Venerus, York Benetec was able to use his psychic powers to direct the ships mine defence lasers to target and take out the remaining mines. Meanwhile the Rod Hant had picked up a signal coming from an escaped enemy shuttle that was recognisably Adpetus Mechanicus in origin, moving to intercept, Captain Pak discovered onboard the rogue tech Vorl whom they had previously (on the insistence of the Vitanteur Syndicate) ferried to Footfall from Hiveworld Decusis; Vorl claimed to have been captured on an enemy raid and to have pretended to defect, in his gratitude at having been rescued he revealed Lorgar intended to use the ancient recording device to locate something in the system that would allow some sort of “rebirth.”

The actual combat was played out identically to a normal combat (using attack/defence rolls) with the two elite crewed ships going first and the rest following in no particular order (I generally went player ships first and then enemy ships), each point of stress taken ticked off one of the ships stress boxes. Players were allowed to spend their fate points to re-roll/boost their rolls for ships that their characters were on, as long as they had an appropriate Aspect; this mainly came into play with Admiral Black since his Aspects are mostly based around being a ship’s Captain and they pretty much allowed the Venerus to come through the combat unscathed.
Due to the speed of the vessels involved and the distances under consideration I did not use zones in this combat simply alerting the players when the enemy ships were entering range; the Venerus had moved to the other side of the moon to conceal itself, I had Admiral Black make a command roll against the command roll of Lorgar Khan, the players won and thus were not spotted until too late.
A fate point was offered for an additional complication and, when accepted, this lead to the pickup of the Adeptus Mechanicus signal from the rogue-tech Vorl and some additional information about Lorgar Khan’s goals being revealed. 

Relaying this information to Admiral Black, Captain Pak headed down to planet in a landing craft and began broadcasting a signal to draw any survivors from the Lunatic Pandora to them, as they began to arrive in dribs and drabs he was happy to see that Captain Polaris had survived (apparently after a crew member had knocked him out and put him in an escape pod); however the surface of the planet was rapidly coming a war zone as the survivors from both sides began to battle through the streets.

 Because it didn’t seem very interesting to just rule that everyone was dead (and as a lead in to the next session) I rules that a lot of people would have made it to escape vessels and would be heading for the nearby moon of Strive (where the player characters spent much of the previous session).
This nicely sets up a battlezone style scenario for the next game and allows for a more satisfying confrontation with the enemy other than just blowing up his ship (whilst still rewarding the players for their inventiveness with the teleportarium, since they have deprived Lorgar Khan of much of his mobility).

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 18: Death in the Black

With the second wave of enemy ships approaching Lord Admiral Black looked around at the ragged remnant of his fleet and took stock of the force that he has to take on the encroaching heretics, his flagship, the Venerus, was largely untouched (aside from some minor cosmetic damage), the Lunatic Pandora was functional but had sustained heavy damaged and the Rod Hant was currently fighting off boarders from the first wave of the enemy, and they had only a couple of days before the mainstay of Lorgar Khan’s fleet arrived.
Over the course of the first day Admiral Black helped Captain Pak repel the boarders on the Rod Hant and eventually they succeeding in killing the last one, although a lengthy check for sabotage and explosives did means that they did not have time to fully repair the extensive damage that the Rod Hant had sustained in the previous combat. Realising that, in their present shape, they could not hope to challenge the mighty Battle Barge of the traitor Astarted Lorgar Khan they concocted a desperate plan whereby they would use the ancient teleportarium aboard the Venerus to teleport a fire-linked collection of krak missiles and other explosives into the engine room of the enemy vessel.
As they readied themselves for combat on the second day, Admiral Black sat on the bridge watching the approaching fleet, his wife at his side and placed his head in his hands; suddenly he was no longer on the bridge of the Venerus but was standing in the royal chambers on his homeworld of Telec Prime, groups of panicked medical technicians were running down a corridor towards a room that he recognised as belong to his father Macharius Black, almost without thinking the Admiral followed them. In the room Macharius, looking sickly, his eyes yellowed and his face (which bore a striking resemblance to that of the Admiral) pale, he was railing against the med-techs who appeared to be informing him that his treatments were no longer proving effective; shouting that there was none to take his place leading the family if he died, Macharius ordered them to send for his sons, there must be other technology out there that could preserve his life.
A voice called out to Admiral Black and he jerked awake in the command chair, his wife Lady Dominique Decusis-Black was shaking his arm and looking at him in a concerned manner, but he waved away her concerns saying that he was fine. Captain Pak had finished adapting one of the damaged murder servitors from the Lunatic Pandora and had wired it into the trigger mechanism of the bomb that they had constructed, as the first enemy ships entered range and began to open fire with macro-batteries Pak began to have the teleportarium chamber prepped for dispatch; Navigator York Benetec had been psychically scanning the area and relayed the coordinates for the likely location of the engine room about the enemy battle barge.
As his mind probed the area of space around them, Benetec felt another presence and, sensing that it was not hostile, allowed it to make contact with him; Benetec found himself on a prosperous world of fluted silver towers and happy people, the hazy psychic projection of the chaos sorceror Kantor Pilus floating next to him. Pilus showed Benetec how his homeworld had been devastated by the Astartes after their leader had attempted to use forbidden sorcery to warn the Emperor of treachery from within, “although we were right, this was our reward” mocked the sorceror with a touch of sadness in his voice. Pilus attempted to persuade Benetec that if they just handing the ancient recording device to Lorgar that much bloodshed could be avoided, Benetec refused and broke off the psychic connection.
Combat was erupting in the space around the moon of Strive, there was a series of explosions as the Lunatic Pandora buckled and then was torn apart amidst a hail of projectiles and lance fire; the teleportarium hummed aboard the Venerus and, as the large bomb disappeared, it looked for a moment as though the plan might not succeed and then a huge blast torn apart the rear section of the encroaching battle barge the explosion engulfing one of the other four clan ships that accompanied it. Macro-batteries from the Venerus made short work of two more but both it and the Rod Hant has taken serious damage.
The space around Strive filled with escape pods and short range craft as the survivors of ruined ships on both sides sort to make their way planet side; the remaining enemy clan ship attempted to flee, laying mines to cover it’s tracks but it was destroyed by the Venerus, York Benetec was able to use his psychic powers to direct the ships mine defence lasers to target and take out the remaining mines. Meanwhile the Rod Hant had picked up a signal coming from an escaped enemy shuttle that was recognisably Adpetus Mechanicus in origin, moving to intercept, Captain Pak discovered onboard the rogue tech Vorl whom they had previously (on the insistence of the Vitanteur Syndicate) ferried to Footfall from Hiveworld Decusis; Vorl claimed to have been captured on an enemy raid and to have pretended to defect, in his gratitude at having been rescued he revealed Lorgar intended to use the ancient recording device to locate something in the system that would allow some sort of “rebirth.”
Relaying this information to Admiral Black, Captain Pak headed down to planet in a landing craft and began broadcasting a signal to draw any survivors from the Lunatic Pandora to them, as they began to arrive in dribs and drabs he was happy to see that Captain Polaris had survived (apparently after a crew member had knocked him out and put him in an escape pod); however the surface of the planet was rapidly coming a war zone as the survivors from both sides began to battle through the streets.

Engage Improv Drive, Mook speed ahead!

In my last post about space combat in my Rogue Trader game (http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/testing-proposed-narrative-space-combat.html for anyone interested) I talked a bit about using a narrative system for space combat; in my session earlier today however I found that the players moved through the plot I had envisioned fairly quickly and onto a space combat scene which I had not entirely scripted out.
In a moment of inspiration I decided to use the mook rules from Fate Accelerated, given any ships with an advantage in the combat +2 to their attack/defence rolls and giving any ships with a disadvantage a -2 to their attack/defence rolls; each normal sized ship was given three stress boxes with smaller ones being given a single stress box and larger ships being given five. We then just played the attack out as a fairly standard combat with the players rolling for their own and allied ships with myself rolling for the enemy ships.
The system seemed to work fairly well and we got through two space combats in a fairly small space of time, no-one was sat around bored and we paused every now and again to check on the overall tactics of the players and highlight important moments in the combat. We also had a few good compels where one of the ships was allowed to keep fighting in an almost crippled state in return for being boarded and another ship was allowed to remain undestroyed but was forced to withdraw from the fighting.
This seemed to work great and I highly recommend using the mook rules from Accelerated if you ever have a need to improv an encounter in a Fate game.

Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 17: Changer of Ways

One moment York Benetec is standing in the crater when suddenly he is standing on a ship (that seems to be of Imperial manufacture) talking to a cruel, pale figure that he recognises from a previous psychic conversation as Lorgar; Lorgar tells him that he best not fail him and that they need to locate the holo-record, the information it holds could allow them to build anew. 
“You had best not fail me Kantor” – Lorgar Khan, Word Bearers Chaos Space Marine legion
In a voice not his own Benetec responds telling Lorgar that he won’t fail; looking down at his body York sees that he is clad in deep blue power armour with burnished golden trim, behind him stand five similarly armoured figures, motionless like automatons with no glimmers of a soul lurking behind the blak abyss of their helmet visors.
The vision changes and now he is in a fighter craft, looking out of the window he sees the guncutter piloted by by Jurgen shoot his fighter, pausing briefly to murder the all to human pilot by punching a fist through his chest York/Kantor jumps out of the falling fighter, mouthing strange words of power he conjures a mystical force field that protects him from most of force of hitting the ground. As the ground rushes towards him, York snaps back into his own body at the moment of impact.
“Besch├╝tze mich vor meinen Feinden Tzeentch” – Sorceror Kantor Pilus of the Thousand Sons Legion
As York Benetec recovers his senses Admiral Black begins running up the crater with his power sword drawn; there is a sudden gout of blue/pink fire and the twisted body of Jurgen is thrown through the air over their heads and disappears down into the crater; Captain Pak grabs a piece of sheet metal to use as a temporary shield and begins following. A burnt circle of smouldering trees surrounding the armoured figure attests to the fires that the sorceror unleashed on Jurgen.
Admiral Black lurks around using the smoke of the burnt trees as cover, he sees the sorceror conjure a small flcikering flame in his palm and stare into it; he talks to someone, confirming his survival and asking for an extraction. Baldur ask Admiral Black to help save his people if anything happens to him, he produces the holo-record guarded by his people and gives it to Admiral Black before him and his men scream and charge, throwing their spears at the armoured figure now standing in a circle of charred trees. The spears ping off the armour of the chaos space marine who seems to regard them as little more than annoyance as York Benetec begins laying down covering fire.
Chanting the sorceror causes fire to rain down from the sky scorching Admiral Black, Benetec tries to use his psychic powers to shield himself but the fire penetrates it, burning him with warp tainted flames; he continues to lay down covering fire as Baldur’s men rush the sorceror, forcing him onto the ground, stabbing at him with primitive weapons. A gout of flame blasts Baldur off the sorceror, throwing his spasming body to the ground whilst the sorceror throws off the warriors and begins rising to his feet.
Admiral Black blasts away at the mighty figure with his plasma pistol, the weapon growing hot in his hands as he fires; Benetec senses the sorceror attempting to teleport himself and take Admiral Black with him, although unable to prevent the sorceror escaping York Benetec is able to use his psychic powers to stop the heretic taking Admiral Black with him. With a blinding flash of blue/pink light the sorceror vanishes.
Captain Pak examines York Baldur, the tribal chief is severely injured and unconscious with a huge hole scorched in his chest and his right arm ruined, Pak says that bionics might save the chief but that he needs the facilities onboard ship. York Benetec senses a warp disturbance as numerous vessels enter the system.
“I think the sorceror’s extraction has arrived.” – Navigator York Benetec
Admiral Black suddenly remembers Jurgen and runs back into the crater, finding the twisted, unconscious body of Jurgen lying in a stunted tree growing from the side of the crate; with the help of Captain Pak he gets Jurgen down but the pilot is unconscious. Benetec sends a psychic signal out into space requesting help and a few moments later the comm-link crackles, it’s Polaris, the Lunatic Pandor has entered the system and has picked up Admiral Black’s signal, they are coming to extract him.
Admiral Black tells them to send guncutters to pick them up in the village, directing Baldur’s men through gestures they take the two unconscious men back to town with Captain Pak doing his best to keep them stable; York Benetec tells Admiral Black that the chaos space marines are seeking the Drodd clan’s holo-record for some unholy purpose. Black suggests that Captain Pak take rulership of Clan Drodd whilst Baldur is incapacitated, Captain Pak says that he should be able to effect bionic replacements for Baldur’s damaged flesh once they get access to the facilities on one of their ships. Benetec suggests that instead they don’t tell the tribe that Baldur is injured, saying that he is taking the fight into the skies; Admiral Black agrees.
They meet with the priest Deacon Kiril, Kiril agrees to take their message to the Drodd tribe, but says that without word from Baldur they may not believe him. Coming under heavy fighter fire the Lunatic Pandora’s fighters are pursued by small enemy craft into the atmosphere, despite the enemy destroying one of their guncutters a couple of them are able to land. Captain Pak and the guncutter techs hook their Rhino APC up to the guncutter, they dive inside it and are buffetted around as the guncutter takes off, jinking to avoid enemy fire as they burst through the atmosphere and dock with the Lunatic Pandora (itself under heavy fire) from hostile clan ships in high orbit around the moon Strive.
Polaris greets them on the ship, he says that they warped into the system recently, having only repelled the boarders at great cost and only due to the murder servitors on board (although many were damaged or destroyed), they weren’t expecting to jump into a fire fight quite so soon and are ill-prepared. Benetec receives primitive astropathic communication, he suspects from Sjomann Amelie Klok, that shows her face, a golden eye and the sun of the Endeavour System, however he doesn’t know what it means; Polaris and Admiral Black move to the bridge of the Lunatic Pandora.
Sensors pick up two enemy clan-ships inbound, Admiral Black recommends moving between the planet and moon both in an attempt to shield themselves and to locate the Clan Drodd ships they believe to be concealed there; the med-techs are able to wake Baldur temporarily, long enough for him to order his ships to assist the Lunatic Pandora before he passes out again.
York Benetec goes to the navigator chamber where he finds Passacaglia Belisarius, looking extremely strained and worn out from continually broadcasting psychic static to make enemy ships unable to locate them; he requests that he be allowed to use the equipment in the chamber, greatful for a respite Belisarius staggers from the chair and allows York Benetec to take control. Benetec uses his psychic senses to perceive the surrounding areas and picks up on three incoming hostile clan ships.
Admiral Black orders fighters deployed and, although the small vessels are able to damage one of the enemy ships, they are quickly destroyed by the firepower of the larger ships, Polaris orders his ships to engage. As salvoes of macro-battery fire flash across the black voice one of their ships is destroyed, whilst the Lunatic Pandora and another of the clan-ships are damaged, with one escaping unharmed.
Captain Pak begins working on replacing the damaged lung of Baldur and his right arm with more efficient technological alternative; a comm-link sounds and they are relieved to hear that the Venerus has arrived, Lady Decusis-York Black is pleased to hear that Fortunus is well, but informs him that there are more enemy ships incoming. Admiral Black and York Benetec relocate to the Venerus (taking Baldur and Jurgen with them), Captain Pak heads aboard the Rod Hant ready to command his warriors in battle.
A fierce space battle erupts as three enemy clan-ships arrive, behind them floats a strange asteroid like ship with numerous silver towers rising from it, oink and blue fire crackles from the towers striking their vessels.
“It has been a pleasure serving with you York Benetec” – Admiral Fortunus Black, Rogue Trader
During the combat, the Lunatic Pandora is crippled and forced to withdraw, another Drodd clan-ship is destroyed along with the Solv Tann, whilst the Rod Hant is boarded although it continues fighting. Enraged by his ship’s inability to influence the fighting Admiral Black has the Venerus pour all of it’s firepower into the tower and the remaining enemy clan-ship destroying both in a conflaguration of plasma, although a small craft is detected fleeing the tower ship.
Benetec informs them that more enemy ships are approaching from the centre of the system but that it will take them a day or two to reach their position, things look grim as the various Captain’s begin consider their options, aware that the battle fortress of Lorgar Khan speeds towards them like onrushing death.

Testing proposed narrative space combat system

As detailed in my previous posts I have been trying to come up with a solution to the problem of lengthy combats leaving certain people out, I decided to ‘test run’ a number of ideas this evening with the results shown below.


***

Statistics

For the examples below the combats pit the Venerus against a Pirate Cruiser, the two ships have to following stats:

  • Venerus (Engine +1, Hull +4, Trade +2, Weapons +3)
  • Pirate Cruiser (Engine +3, Hull +1, Trade +2, Weapons +4)
***
Idea 1


Each player makes a roll for their engines and weapons score and totals the final results together to equal the damage done to the other side, each side then rolls their trade score to represent their attempts to repair their ship and subtracts it from the damage done.
Try 1
Venerus = -1 +6 = 5 dmg done to pirate -5 repair = 0 dmg to pirate
Pirate = +5 +7 = 12 dmg done to venerus -2 repair = 10 dmg to venerus
Try 2
Venerus = +2 +5 = 7 dmg done to pirate -0 repair = 7 dmg to pirate
Pirate = +2 +3 = 5 dmg to Venerus -4 repair = 1 dmg to venerus
***
Idea 2
Each player rolls for their engines, weapons and trade, totalling the rolls and this gives the dmg done to the other side.
Try 1
Venerus = +2 +4 +2 = 8 dmg done to pirate
Pirate = +4 +4 +0 = 8 dmg done to venerus
Try 2
Venerus = +0 +4 +2 = 6 dmg done to pirate
Pirate = +4 +5 +3 = 12 dmg done to Venerus
***
Idea 3

Total up Engine, Weapon & Hull scores and then add a 4DF roll, this gives you the damage done to other side.
Try 1
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+1) = 9 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(-2) = 6 dmg to venerus
Try 2
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+0) = 8 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(+1) = 9 dmg to venerus
Try 3
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+3) = 11 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(-2) = 6 dmg to venerus
Try 4
Venerus = +1 +4 +3 = 8 + roll(+1) = 9 dmg to pirate 
Pirate = +3 +1 +4 = 8 + roll(+3) = 11 dmg to venerus
***

Idea 4

This would be run more like a normal attack roll with each ship making a weapons roll vs the other ships hull roll and the number of shifts being the amount of damage caused.
Try 1
Venerus attack = +3 -1 = 2
Pirate defend = +1 +0 = 1
1 damage done to Pirate
Pirate attack = +4 -3 = 1
Venerus defend = +4 -2 = 2
0 damage done to Venerus
***
All of the ideas proposed so far have their individual merits and flaws, however their main flaw in my opinion is that that they all effectively involve adding a variety of stats together and then adding a dice roll as a randomiser; whilst this has a certain amount of logic to it given that this is how most challenges work in numerous roleplaying games, the various methods proposed above seem to result either in both ships taking crippling levels of damage or barely anything at all.
***

Idea 5

Make the opposing fleet a difficulty level to be beaten as part of an Overcome action:

  • Low quality (ragtag fighters, low tech vessels) +0
  • Medium quality (cobra class destroyer) +2
  • High quality (rogue trade vessels, havoc & hazeroth class ships) +4
  • Superb quality (warships, dictator class, space marine strike cruiser) +6
  • Legendary quality (retribution class, space marine battle barge, vengeance class grand cruiser, mechanicus ark) +8
  • +1 for every additional ship beyond the number of vessels possessed by the players fleet
  • If the players exceed the difficulty then they have forced the enemy to surrender (unless they are particularly zealous in which case they are destroyed), if the player ties on the roll then either the combat ends in a stalemate with both sides withdrawing to lick their wounds or the players win but at a heavy cost.
    If the players win by 3 shifts or more then they have succeeded with style and may choose to destroy the enemy vessels if they wish; however if the players lose then they have been defeated, if they fail by 3 shifts or more then the enemy have beaten them in style and the consequences may be severe.

    Try 1

    Venerus vs 1 pirate hazeroth cruiser.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels)
    Venerus rolls a -1, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 3
    Not enough to defeat the enemy fleet.
    Try 2
    Venerus vs 1 pirate hazeroth cruiser.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels)
    Venerus rolls a 0, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 4
    This is a stalemate, so either both sides retreat to lick their wounds or the Venerus wins but at a high cost.
    Try 3
    Venerus vs 1 pirate hazeroth cruiser.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels)
    Venerus rolls a +4, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 8
    The Venerus has beaten the difficulty by more than +3 and so they have defeated it With Style and can choose to destroy the enemy if they wish.

    Try 4

    Venerus vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 2 (for the additional pirates) = +6
    Venerus rolls a -4, adding their weapon skills of +4 = 0
    The Venerus has lost by more than 3 shifts and so they are at the mercy of the small pirate fleet.

    Try 5

    Venerus vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers.
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 2 (for the additional pirates) = +6
    Venerus rolls a +2, adding their weapon skills of +4 = +6
    This is a stalemate, so either both sides retreat to lick their wounds or the Venerus wins but at a high cost.
    Try 6
    Venerus + Lunatic Pandora vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers..
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 1 (for the additional pirate vessel) = +5
    Venerus rolls a 0, adding their weapon skill of +4 = 4
    The Venerus and Lunatic Pandora are narrowly defeated by the pirate fleet.
    Try 7
    Venerus + Lunatic Pandora vs 3 pirate hazeroth cruisers..
    Difficulty = +4 (high quality vessels) + 1 (for the additional pirate vessel) = +5
    Venerus rolls a +3, adding their weapon skill of +4 = 7
    The Venerus and the Lunatic Pandora have defeated the pirate fleet.
    ***

    Out of all the ideas that i’ve suggested in this post the final one is the most appealing, reducing the combat to a single test with a difficulty set by the quality of the opposition and modified via fate points, Aspects and Stunts as per normal tests (although this is not reflected in the tests shown above).
    I certainly plan to test out Idea 5 a game situation at some point, the only thing left to be decided on would be how to adjudicate the amount of damage done to the defeated fleet and the victors; although I am half tempted to leave this to narrative fiat.

    The quest for inclusive space combat continues

    So, continuing on from last nights post regarding how my game went, i’ve been giving more thought this morning to how I can improve space combat in my Rogue Trader FATE game, in order to get to the point I want the space combat in my game is going to have to meet two criteria:
    • The space combat should be short/quick enough so that any people not involved are not sat out of the game for an extended period.
    • It should involve a series of rolls rather than just a single dice roll.
    Dissecting what happened in yesterdays game

    When we were engaged in the space combat part of the session yesterday, the turn sequence ran as follows:
    • The navigator piloting the ship moving the ship.
    • The Lord Admiral making the shooting rolls.
    • The Enginseer making rolls to repair.
    • Alternating people making rolls for the other fleet ship (crewed by NPCs).
    I made an attempt to have players whose characters hadn’t acted in the last round roll dice for the NPCs to keep them involved, however, I can appreciate that rolling a few dice isn’t the same as having your character actually involved in the situation unfolding, the same level of emotional investment isn’t present IMO. There were occasions when people whose characters weren’t directly involved used their abilities or fate points to help provide bonuses to those people (whether PCs or NPCs) who were making the rolls.
    Gaining FATE points

    Another (very valid) point that was raised after the session was that when people were suggesting compels for their Aspects in order to gain Fate points, only the person gaining the fate point was actually benefiting, however, in a lot of cases the complications arising were affecting or stymieing the efforts of other players who were not benefiting directly from the accumulation of fate points.
    So what is the solution?
    My current plan is to distill the space combat down to a small series of rolls rather than an extended sequence of rolls; for example, i’m currently thinking that i’ll have a combat be resolved using the following rolls:
    • The ships pilots position their ships, this provides a modifier to the next stage for whichever ship gains the advantage.
    • Rolls are made for ships weapons, the number of shifts providing the total damage done to the opposing side.
    • Repair rolls are made, the number of positive shifts repairing the amount of damage done.
    • The amount of positive/negative shifts that each ship has remaining will be totaled and each side in the conflict will tally up their totals.
    • Total damage is allocated to the various ships by the commander of each side in the conflict.
    • The side with the least positive shifts in total is “Taken Out”, if they’ve taken a lot of damage then they may have been destroyed, or they may have been forced to surrender.
    This should allow a combat to be kept reasonably simple and short and on a narrative basis with a number of dice rolls that can occur simultaneously.
    In terms of Compels, I believe this is something that I can solve through my GMing by assuring that the complications arising from Compels are more personal and directed at the the character of the player receiving the fate point.

    So how did the game go?

    Well that’s today’s Rogue Trader session finished and the players all safely off home, it was the first try of my ‘simplified’ space style rules (as mentioned in this post) – so, sat here after the session has finished and the dust has settled I find myself asking the question “so, how do I think the session went?”

    Space Combat

    I think the simplified space combat was definitely a step in the right direction, it certainly flowed better than our attempts at using the original FFG rules space combat; however, despite my best attempts there were still moments when some of the characters were not involved very much in the events unfolding because they were limited in how much they could effect the space combat. I’ve had some frank discussions with my players at the end of the session and my current thoughts on the matter suggest the following options:

    • Expanding the repertoire of potential actions available to include more characters – this is one possibility but also involves adding an additional layer of complexity to the combat that I am keen to avoid.
    • Have the players who are not involved take over the parts of named NPCs who are influencing the combat – again a possibility although i’d really love to keep players as their own characters as much as possible.
    • Reduce the combat to a single roll or short series of rolls allowing all the player characters to contribute fate points – this is currently my favourite option since it reduces the length of combats meaning that players wouldn’t be sat out for so long but the potential of a single drastically bad roll would be mitigated by the potential fate point expenditures.
    • Run each space combat as a series of small encounters involving all characters, the result of each encounter adding to the overall success or failure of the overall combat.
    I have a month to think about it before the next session, so i’ll definitely be giving some thought to potentially using one of the above options when we next have cause to run some space combat.

    Space combat – what can my character do?

    I received a Facebook message this morning from one of the players in my Rogue Trader game; he’d been reading my recent blog posts about space combat in my Rogue Trader FATE hack and wanted to ask the question:

    “I take it each of us would be able to do some thing in each turn?”
    This started me thinking; one of the initial problems that we had with the standard FFG rules for Rogue Trader was that, although the rules covered hundreds and hundreds of pages in numerous different books, the actual options for keeping all of the players involved in a space combat were fairly limited, this had lessened somewhat once the group acquired a second ship, however it was still very challenging giving everyone something to do in a space combat. Resisting the urge to dive straight back into my hack and start throwing out new rules like they were going out of fashion, I thought i’d take a quite skim through the core rules first and see what they were capable of delivering.
    I suppose that, given how flexible the FATE system is, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise to me that what I wanted was pretty much already covered by the systems Aspect rules; as well as being one of the coolest things about the FATE system and having been adapted to all manner of circumstances and different functions in numerous hacks that are being published and made available over the net, the Aspects would do a great job for me in representing how the different characters could influence what was occurring in the main battle, even if they were not directly manning one of the ships stations themselves.
    So how will this work?
    Well, as discussed in my previous post on the subject of Ship Construction, each ship would have four skills:

    • Engine – used for maneuvres and initiative
    • Hull – used for defence rolls and affects the ship stress tracker
    • Trade – used for trading, maintenance and ship-to-ship diplomacy
    • Weapons – used to make attack rolls

    A character manning one of these stations could substitute the following skill to make ship based rolls:

    • Engine – drive(spacecraft) 
    • Hull – crafts(tech use)
    • Trade – resources
    • Weapons – shooting

    However a character who was not manning one of the stations could still get involved if they had an appropriate Aspect.
    For example: If our Confessor Cornelius has an Aspect “Hate the Alien” and the vessel that he is onboard is firing upon a xenos vessel, Cornelius could use one of his fate points to invoke his Aspect, firing up the gunners with prayers and speeches of hatred for their foe, granted them either a +2 bonus or allowing them to re-roll their attack. Also if this was the case and Cornelius was the only character contributing the shooting then I would have him make the roll on the crews behalf.
    This sums up one of the most enjoyable aspects of the FATE rules system for me is that the rules are detailed enough to provide a framework for the group storytelling necessary to create a good RP experience, but they are also flexible and broad enough so that often they will easily cover circumstances in ways that you hadn’t originally foreseen and, on the rare occasions when they do not they can easily be bent into a shape that does.

    Initiative and Escaping from Space Combat

    Having not long finished work on my post about ways to simplify space combat rules in my Rogue Trader FATE hack my thoughts started turning towards how initiative would would in the posited three zone space combat and how people would actually leave combat if they decided to flee rather than fight to the “death” (although obviously, the ship being “Taken Out” would not automatically mean death, more likely they have been boarded or are spiraling towards the surface of a planet, something more interesting like that).

    Ships in WH40K (certainly human ships) tend to be huge blocky constructions, as you can see below in these images from the Comic Vine and WH40K Wiki websites:

    The two ships (Lunatic Pandora and Venerus) commanded by the player characters would be about the size of a Hazeroth Class Privateer and a Dictator Class Cruiser respectively (as shown in the image above) and, despite not being as vast as the hugest of the ships commanded by the Imperium of Man, they are still fairly massive vessels (coming in at a length of 1600m and 3500m).

    Initiative

    This was fairly straight forward, the ships would make rolls using their Engine Skill or (if a PC or named-NPC was crewing that station) their Drive(spacecraft) Skill and then would take their moves in turns from highest to low, these could be modified as usual using Aspects or (if appropriate) Stunts.

    For example: someone might have an Aspect of Advanced Scanners and spend a fate point to add +2 to their initiative because they’ve been able to pick up the other vessels and react sooner.

    Escaping from Space Combat

    The most likely way of fleeing the area completely in a WH40K space combat (IMO) would be for the ship to activate its warp engines and and drop into the Immaterium; with this in mind I decided that any ship that did not have an enemy vessel in it’s zone could make a Fair (+2) Engine roll (or, if crewed by a player or named-NPC the Navigator could make the same difficulty Will roll) to enter the warp and leave the combat.