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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- Venerus (Engine +1, Hull +4, Trade +2, Weapons +3)
- Pirate Cruiser (Engine +3, Hull +1, Trade +2, Weapons +4)
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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?”
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.
- 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
- Engine – drive(spacecraft)
- Hull – crafts(tech use)
- Trade – resources
- Weapons – shooting
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).
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).
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.