Simplifying space combat in my Rogue Trader hack

Having spent an awful lot of time recently working on my FAE NWOD hack i’ve been going to great lengths to keep the rules as simple as possible, capturing the feel and mood of the World of Darkness without bolting on loads of unnecessary additional rules and sub-systems that would slow the game down without really adding all that much to it; as well as the character generation session for my God Machine Chronicle FAE game this weekend i’ve also got another session of my Rogue Trader FATE game on Sunday (not to mention playing in a Pathfinder game that a friend is running on Saturday) and so i’ve been leafing through my hack rules in advance of the session.

The plan for the next game has always been to include a couple of space fights in them; since we changed to using the FATE rules we haven’t really gone in for any big space combats as we adjusted to using the new rules and it’s about time IMO that we test drive the hack rules for space combat. Originally the space combat rules in my hack were very much based on the Diaspora rules with a few tweaks and alterations by myself; the players have a number of build points which they use to purchase skills, aspects and stunts for their ship with each ship having multiple stress tracks and various other bits and pieces. Although I was quite pleased with it when I first finished writing up that part of the hack, looking at it now the rules really do seem a little bit over the top and more suited to a strategic wargame or miniatures game rather than a narrative-based RP game.

With that in mind I decided to dust off the rules and see if I could simplify them using some of the lessions that i’m current learning from Fate Accelerated Edition.

Ship Construction

The first step, I decided, was to throw out the notion of variable build points (based on vessel size) to create a ship and the use of multiple stress tracks. I decided that i’d give the ships some basic skills (the words in blue show the skills that players can use instead if they are crewing that section(if applicable)); the players can pick one at Great (+4), one at Good (+3), one at Fair (+2) and the remaining one at Average (+1).

  • Engine (drive(spacecraft)) – used to make maneuvres and initiative rolls
  • Hull (crafts(tech use)) – used in defence and affects stress tracker
  • Trade (resources) – used for trading and maintenance
  • Weapons (shooting)– used to make attack rolls
These skills would receive a set number of levels to be allocated between them (as character do when they are created), each ship (regardless of size) would receive a number of Stunts and Aspects; larger ships could be achieved by taking a higher Hull Skill, this would add additional boxes to the ships Hull Stress tracker in the same way as Physique does for characters.

Ships would have a refresh of three fate points, deducted by 1 for everyone stunt beyond the first that was taken, they would also receive 5 Aspects (as with normal FATE characters).

By default the ship would receive 2 stress boxes and 3 consequences boxes (with the standard 2, 4 and 6 values) in the same way as a character.

  • If the Hull skill is Average (+1) or Fair (+2) then one more stress box is added.
  • If the Hull skill is Good (+3) or higher then two more stress boxes are added.
  • At Superb (+5) or higher an additional mild consequence slot is added.

Stunts could be purchased in the same way as FAE or FATE allowing the characters to justify under what circumstances they would receive the bonus; one that I was going to give them was the following (since it has been established that the ship has this bit of tech).
Stunt – Teleportarium

Once per game as long as the ship is in the same system it may move up to 10 people to another place in the same system from the ship, or back onto the ship.

Another stunt that would like possesses by the flagship of Admiral Blacks fleet is:

Stunt – Large ship

This stunt adds an additional stress box to the ships character sheet.

Combat Zone Layout

I decide to use three zones for space combat (that I would represent on the table with index cards) with a single ’empty’ card represent the vast emptiness of space and the other two each containing something related to the systems aspects. For example: if the combat took place around Catan Prime then there might be an asteroid in one zone and a burning world.

These elements will be Aspects in their various zones and function as normal Aspects, for instance someone could spend one of their fate points to gain a +2 to a defensive hull roll because they are taking cover behind the asteroid.

Ships would only be able to fire/engage with enemy vessels in the same zone but would be able to move between zones freely on their turn as per the FATE rules, possibly with a roll if there was some sort of impediment to movement (like an asteroid belt or something similar).

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