#RPGThursday – “These are the voyages….” Star Trek Adventures Starship Shakedown

The latest version of the Star Trek Adventures RPG Living Playtest from Modiphius includes Alpha Shakedown Cruise – Starship Operations v1.1. This is the first glimpse into the rules for starships in STA. Given the very prominent role starships have in the Star Trek universe these rules will likely be a major part of any adventure.

Going through the rules, several parts jump right out at me:

  • STA uses the “Ships as Characters” approach; i.e. ships are described much like characters
  • In keeping with canon sources, Power is a vital starship commodity that is limited but can also be used in support of actions
  • Crew support gives the PCs a version of an “on-call” NPC that can be used to Assist, as an Advantage, or as an Alternate PC; this is a great GM tool
  • Starship Combat has several very loose definitons (like ranges); does this empower a more narrative approach?
  • Crew Roles are an attempt to ensure that all the PCs have a role to play (i.e “share the narrative”) in starship combat
  • Power can be used in combat to create Momentum but at the risk of a Complication
  • The Attack Task may require three (3) die rolls
  • Inflicting Damage may require up to three (3) die rolls.

Mangledduk (Photobucket)
Without starship construction design rules it is hard to see how scaling will work. The lack of the rules also make some of the ship designs appear suspect. For instance, my beloved Constitution-class cruiser (for the 23rd Century missions) has a Power of 7 and Independent Phaser Power which means the phasers can’t use ship’s power for firing (and cannot be boosted with extra Power either). A 24th Century Galaxy-class starship has a Power rating of 6 although the phasers can use power, cause more damage, and have several additional attributes that the Constitution-class phasers don’t have. At first glance this seems counterintuitive; surely the Galaxy-class has far more power than an old Connie, right?

The number of rolls in combat also concerns me. When making an attack, the ship can Assist (just like a character) which is a separate die roll. Then the PC makes the Attack die roll and if successful then the System Hit table is consulted. That’s already 2-3 die rolls. THEN, to inflict damage, Challenge Dice [CD] are rolled with a possibility that another [CD] roll from Soak is needed and, if necessary, yet another [CD] roll if there was a Crew Breech hit.

The ship Assist condition is concerning, and actually reveals a deeper potential conflict from the “ship as a character” approach. The Assist Rule on p. 14 of the v1.36 states:

In combat or other situations with pressure, assisting a Task is considered to take up a character’s turn.

So, does the ship get a Turn like a character or not? This gets to a deeper question; is the ship really just a character or a tool? Reading the v1.1 Shakedown Cruise rules, it seems that the designer has firmly concluded that ships are characters and not tools. The problem is that the ruleset needs to reflect this clearly with how and when the ship acts as a character and when (or if?) it is simply used as a tool.

Playtest Example – Lexington vs. Klingon D7

To try out the rules, I ran a small scenario. The Federation starship Lexington (the 23rd Century Constitution-class from The Original Series) is investigating a colony that suddenly stopped sending messages.

As Lexington drops out of warp, Captain Moore Directs, “Science Officer, make a sensor sweep.” This lets Captain Moore Assist on the task using his Command skill. Captain Moore’s roll is a Success. Mr. Shelor, the Science Officer, attempts the Sensor Sweep. First we have to roll the Starship Assist, which ends up as a Complication (interference?) which increases the Difficulty of the Sensor Sweep to 2. Mr. Shelor (finally) makes his task roll, rolling 2d20 and getting a Success and another Complication. Given the Assist from the Captain, the Sensor Sweep (barely) detects a Klingon D7 at Long Range (2 Zones), but the GM notes the Complication makes it a poor quality sensor lock which will add +1 Difficulty to any other sensor or combat operation for the rest of this turn.

The Klingon D7 gets their first of three actions this turn. The GM spends one Threat in place of Power and Warps the ship two zones, or into Close Range (0 Zones).

At a glance from the Captain, Lt. Niemec, the Communications Officer, Opens Hailing Frequencies. Maybe the Klingons just want to talk! Once again the ship can Assist, and rolls a 1 on 1d20 adding two Successes. Lt Niemec’s task roll of 2d20 gives her two more Successes which translates into Success with three Momentum. The channel to the Klingons is open. Lt Niemec decides to immediately spend one Momentum to Obtain Information. Stating the channel is open but the Klingons are apparently unaware, the question asked is, “Are the Klingons going to shoot?” The GM truthfully answers, “Yes.” With two Momentum left, Lt. Niemec could Keep the Initiative and pass the action to the Navigator for a Tactical event (i.e. firing) but knowing the Federation would never fire first, instead adds the two remaining Momentum to the Momentum Pool. The GM rewards Lt. Niemec with a point of Determination as she has upheld the values of the Federation in the face of a sure threat.

The Klingon D7 acts as expected and Fires Weapon. The D7 fires their Disruptor Cannon. Given the range (Close) the Difficulty is 2 (actually it is Difficulty 1 but since this is the second action by the D7 this turn the Difficulty is at +1). The Klingon Weapons Officer gets lucky and scores two Successes getting a Hit. Rolling on the System Hit table, the damaged system is the Lexington’s engines. Disruptor Cannons roll 7 Challenge Dice [CD] for Damage and thanks to their Vicious quality each Effect is an extra point of damage. The [CD] roll is 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6 (wow!) for 5 Damage and 5 Effect or a total of 10 Damage! The Lexington’s Soak value of 3 reduces this to 7 Damage. This reduces the Shields from 10 to three and causes a Breech against the Lexington’s communications systems, adding +1 Difficulty to all future tasks involving that system.

Captain86 (DeviantArt)
Having been fired upon, Lt. Cmndr. Varg at Navigation makes a Tactical action and fires the Lexington’s Phaser Array. This is usually a Difficulty 1 task but remember the bad sensor sweep makes this Difficulty 2. Once again the ship can Assist and gets a Success. Lt. Cmndr. Varg decides to use one Momentum from the Momentum Pool and rolls 3d20, getting Success with Momentum (two Momentum counting the extra Success from the ship). Since the Lexington’s Phaser Array is Versatile, two extra Momentum are added from the Success for a total of four Momentum. The System Hit is Structure. As Lt. Cmndr. Varg prepares to roll the 6 [CD] for damage, he declares that he will use one Momentum point to make the hit a Penetrating hit which will ignore two Soak. The [CD] are 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6 for 4 Damage with two Effect. This is a horrible roll, so Varg spends another Momentum to reroll the two 3’s and the 4. The new [CD] roll is 1, 2, 5, 5, 6, 6 for 7 Damage with four Effect. A single Soak reduces this to six Damage against the shields (from 9 to 3) and a Breech against the D7 Structure. The Breech reduces shields to 0, life support is failing and the ship is crippled.

The D7 crew immediately tries to repair the Structure. This would usually be a Difficulty 1 task because of the single Breech, but given this is the third action this turn it is attempted at +2 Difficulty. The GM spends a Threat to add an extra d20, but the task attempt fails. The GM immediately spends his last two Threat for another action and announces the  D7 self destructs.

As the Lexington spends the next few hours rebuilding the damaged communications system, questions remain. Why were the Klingons here? What were they doing? What was so important they would die for?

As you can hopefully see, there is much “roll-playing” and not so much “role-playing” in the above example. It continues to appear that the rules of STA favor mechanics over narrative play.

Star Trek Adventures – Alpha Shakedown Cruise Starship Operations v1.1, ™ and ©2016

Star Trek Adventures – Alpha Shakedown Cruise v1.36, ™ and © 2016

#TravellerRPG #Solo #ClementSector

IN PREPARATION for some travel time this year, I picked up Star Trader: A Solo Trading Game for Traveller designed by Paul Elliott and published by Zozer Games in 2013. Star Trader (ST) lays out a system using Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition rules to play a solo trading campaign. The system uses a 10-step “Trading Checklist” to direct the player through play. ST also has modified Ship Encounters tables and an alternate space combat resolution system to speed play.The focus of ST is trade, and therefore the Trading Checklist focuses on the time from just after arrival to departure with a bit of extra fluff covering encounters while in/outbound to a planet and situations in Jump Space.

The solo-play approach got me thinking about expanding the Trading Checklist. In doing so, I drew upon the Traveller Main Book (Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition) and several Clement Sector setting materials, especially the Clement Sector Core Setting Book, Second Edition (Gypsy Knights Games). After a bit of some work, I came up with CSTravSolo that includes Outbound, In Zimm Space, and Inbound procedures. My checklist is not intended to be exhaustive; rather, it is a compilation of common skill checks with modifiers. Think of it as a guide for play!

A great advantage of the Traveller RPG series is that the “game” is actually made up of numerous “sub-games.” The most famous is Character Generation (CharGen) which (in)famously is known for having a chance for the character to die during the process. The combat procedure in Classic Traveller spun off skirmish games (Snapshot or Azhanti High Lightning) as well as a full-up miniatures battle game (Striker). The space combat system went through several versions including Mayday and Trillion Credit Squadron.  ST continues this trend by expanding upon the “trade” sub-game.

The Solo Traveller RPG project provided a great opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the Clement Sector setting. In addition to the Core Setting Book, there is great information provided in the other books of the line, especially the Subsector Guides. The Clement Sector, as an Alternate Traveller Universe (ATU), does not follow all the rules or conventions of Mongoose Traveller’s Third Imperium. Indeed, the wrinkles it introduces make it more appealing to me than the retreaded materials that Mongoose seemingly specializes in.

I will be honest and state that I purposely did not try to use Mongoose Traveller Second Edition since they do not support the Open Game License (OGL). Gypsy Knights Games has been working to change their products from Mongoose Traveller First Edition into OGL before the 1st Edition license expires. My solo project showed me that their product line is very rich and provides great adventure support.

Wargame Wednesday – Tomorrow’s War SOP (Updated)

Courtesy shatteredcitadel.com

Last year I posted about trying to get Tomorrow’s War into a playable condition. To recap, the basic Infantry Combat system is well done, but when adding other items, like mechanized combat or interface craft and the Grid, the game suffers from not being seamlessly integrated. So in February 2012 I took a stab at trying to get it all to flow together.

After a year of on-and-off tinkering I now have a revised version of the Expanded Sequence of Play (SOP). The hardest parts for me to figure out were Air Defense, VTOLs, and the Grid.

For Air Defense there are literally two systems; an abstract Air Defense Environment and Ground Fire from units on the board. Figuring how these worked together/overlapped/were separate was an intellectual challenge. The solution (?) finally came to me as I was wrestling with the second major problem; what is a VTOL.

Like Air Defense, VTOLs come in a somewhat abstracted off-board support form and on-board units (treated as vehicles). It is important that they be defined BEFORE game play. This is crucial since vehicles count for Initiative whereas off-board/abstracted assets don’t. Once you define VTOLs one way or the other it becomes clearer which Air Defense resolution system should be used.

Of course, the Grid lays on top of both systems and adds a further layer of complexity because it literally provides a mechanism for a unit to cross from one Air Defense system to the other. [Sigh!]

Another major factor in my revision was a conscious effort to move as much into the Action/Reaction part of the turn. I think this effort is in keeping with the Designer’s Intent to have the interactive combat/movement part of the game be the true heart of the system. So whereas last year there were several “actions” conducted outside the Action/Reaction phase now many of those “actions” are where I think the Designer intended them to be.

So here it is, the February 2013 version:

Tomorrow’s War Expanded Sequence of Play (Feb 2013 Version)

  1. Campaign – Spend Operational Momentum Points (p. 177 Spending Operational Momentum Points)
  2. Note units suffering Loss of Grid (p. 159 Loss of Grid)
  3. First Aid; Call for Medic; CASEVAC – Walking Wounded (p. 64-68 Casualty and Casualty Evacuation)
  4. Stress Test (p. 88 Stress Test)
  5. Morale: Pull Back Units noted as Regrouping; Mark Irregular Shaken units  (p. 86 Pull Back; p. 167 Irregular Morale Effects – Shaken Result)
  6. VTOL Morale Check to return (p. 134 VTOL Damage Effects – VTOL Damage Chart – Withdraw)
  7. Arrival of Reinforcements; Insurgency Level Test (p. 37 Start New Turn – Arrival of Reinforcements, Hot Spots; p. 168 Insurgency Level and Reinforcements)
  8. Dropship Landing (p. 130 Dropships)
  9. Resolve regular Airstrikes; Grid-enabled units using SFAD restricted to SFAD fire for remainder of turn (p. 126 Calling in an Airstrike; p. 157 Synchronized Fire – Synchronized Fire Air Defense (SFAD), Synchronized Fire Against Aircraft)
  10. Merge Units (p. 53-54 Merging Units)
  11. Declare (and test for) unbuttoned AFVs (p. 103 Tank Commanders – Buttoned Up & Unbuttoned)
  12. Declare Hidden Units; Chameleon Suit units resume hiding (p. 80-81 Special Fire Combat Rules – Hidden & Stealthy Units; p. 82 Chameleon Suits)
  13. Drone/UAV Detection Check; Distributed Drones Grid Quality Check vs. Hidden Units (p. 80 Aerial Drones and Hidden Unit; p. 148 Distributed Drones)
  14. Declare Controlled Dumb Bot; Recall Bots (p. 144 Independent Dumb Bots; p. 146 Recalling a Separated Bot)
  15. Initiative (p. 38-40 Initiative)
  16. Declare Overwatch Units; Place Bots on Overwatch (p. 70 Special Fire Combat Rules – Overwatch; p. 146 Bots and Overwatch
  17. Initiative Force activates unit (p. 41 Actions)
    • TL2 or TL3 forces with Loss of Grid must act as Pinned (p. 159 Loss of Grid, p. 86 Pinned)
    • Hot Drops/Parasail Assaults (p. 134 Hot Drops & Parasail Assaults)
    • VTOL Landing/Take-off (p. 131-132 VTOL Troop Insertions)
    • Fast Rope or Grav Belt Insertions (p. 132 Fast Rope or Grav Belt Insertions)
    • Disperse/Manipulate/Transform and Hostile Mobs (p. 160 Regular and Civilian Mobs, p. 161 “Popular” Leaders and Civilian Mobs, Hostile Mobs)
  18. Resolve Reactions (p. 41+ Actions and Reactions); Round of Fire (p. 41-44 Reactions)
    • Resolve Reaction Tests starting with non-Initiative unit nearest to activated unit and work outward
    • Resolve Reactions starting with non-Initiative units that lost; nearest to farthest from Active unit
    • Resolve Reactions where non-Initiative units won Reaction Test nearest to farthest from Active unit
  19. Repeat 17 and 18 until all Initiative Units have been activated (p. 35 SOP)
  20. End Phase
    • After all Initiative units have activated, any Non-Initiative units that has not made a Reaction during turn may move and/or fire.
    • Regular Initiative units who are fired at may react as part of a Round of Fire, as may units on Overwatch (p. 35 SOP)
  21. Move civilian mobs (p. 160 Civilians on the Battlefield)
  22. Grid Quality Check/Jamming Grid Quality Check (p. 155 Grid Quality Check, p. 158 Jamming the Grid)
  23. Morale: Pinned units become “un-pinned”; Shaken units recover (p. 86 Pinned; p. 167 Shaken Result)
  24. Check to Regain Confidence (p. 88 Regaining Confidence)
  25. Remove Smoke (p. 74 Smoke)
  26. Campaign – End of Game (Turn 5 and later) (p. 177 End of Game)

All in all, a bit more realistic.

Couldn’t pass on this.  While searching for images to use found the one below. A future soldier from a 1950’s perspective! Love the helmet – very Disney or Mr. Potato Head-like – but no gloves?

Courtesy atomic-annihilation.blogspot.com

Wargame Wednesday – Traveller High Guard: Bomb-Pumped Laser Missiles

Courtesy KKaju on Deviant Art

One piece of space combat kit that is referenced in latter Traveller products (like QuikLink Interactive’s Traveller’s Aide #9: Fighting Ships of the Solomani Confederation) is the Bomb-Pumped Laser (BPL) missile. The BPL is a missile that detonates near its target, but uses the resulting nuclear explosion to create laser beams to attack. For a bit of background see Atomic Rocketships.

In the most simple Traveller High Guard terms, a BPL missile will “hit” and “penetrate” as a missile but “damage” as a laser. To more accurately reflect the detonation of the BPL at some distance from the target a few modified rules are in order.

Bomb-Pumped Lasers: Using the Missile Attack Table, BPL missiles must achieve the to hit number (or greater) on two dice. However, to reflect the detonation of the BPL at a distance from the target, the USP of active defenses (Sand or Beam and Repulsors) is reduced by 1 (USP-1) for purposes of determining penetration. There is no passive defense (i.e. Nuclear Dampers) against a BPL. If a hit is achieved that penetrates the active defenses, resolve damage per Lasers using the Surface Explosion Damage Table with DM-2 to reflect the greater laser energy arriving at the target.

For example; a Striker-class Solomani Destroyer (TAS9-pg. 32) attacks an Azhanti High Lighting-class Fleet Intruder (Traveller’s Aide #7 – Fighting Ships of the Imperium – pg. 33) at long range. The Striker uses Battery 2, a USP 5 missile battery to attack and declares the use of BPL. The AHL defends with Battery 1 Beam Laser ( USP 9).

  • To Hit: Checking the Missile Attack Table in High Guard, the base To Hit for USP 5 missile attack is 5. DMs allowed are relative computer size (0), target agility (0), and target size (+2) for a final DM of +2. 2d6 are rolled for a 6, DM+2 for 8 which is a Hit .
  • To Penetrate: Cross-referencing the USP 5 missile with USP 9 Beam gives a To Penetrate of 9, but because the attack uses a BPL the USP of the Beam is reduced to 8 (USP-1) giving a To Penetrate of 8. DMs to penetrate are relative computer size (0). 2d6 are rolled for 9 resulting in penetration of defenses.
  • Damage Determination: Using the Surface Explosion Damage Table, 2d6 are rolled. DMs are armor (+5), weapon inflicting hit less than USP 9 (+6), and BPL (-2) for a final DM of +9. The roll of 2d6 is 6 is modified with the DM+9 for a 15 for a Weapon-1 damage. In this case, firing player reduces the Beam Laser Battery to USP 8.

Why Even Use a BPL? Deriving rules for use of BPLs in High Guard gives rise to the question as to why BPLs are even considered. The advantage of the BPL is in the penetration (weakened active defenses and no passive defenses) and a DM-2 on the Surface Explosion Damage Table. Using a regular nuclear missile, the missile must hit (neutral advantage compared to using BPLs), penetrate active defenses (with defenses at full strength – advantage to defender compared to BPLs) and passive defenses (advantage to defender compared to BPLs). Damage Determination also occurs on both the Surface Explosion Damage Table and the Radiation Damage Table (advantage to attacker if not using BPLs). So lets run through that example again but use a standard nuclear missile….

  • To Hit: Checking the Missile Attack Table in High Guard, the base To Hit for USP 5 missile attack is 5. DMs allowed are relative computer size (0), target agility (0), and target size (+2) for a final DM of +2. 2d6 are rolled for a 6, DM+2 for 8 which is a Hit .
  • To Penetrate Active Defenses: Cross-referencing the USP 5 missile with USP 9 Beam gives a To Penetrate of 9. DMs to penetrate are relative computer size (0). 2d6 are rolled for 9 resulting in penetration of active defenses.
  • To Penetrate Passive Defenses: The AHL has a USP 5 Nuclear Damper. DMs are the same (0). To Penetrate is 11. 2d6 is 8…no penetration. However, for the sake of the example, let’s assume the roll beat the low-probability 11+….
  • Damage Determination: Using the Surface Explosion Damage Table, 2d6 are rolled. DMs are armor (+5), weapon inflicting hit less than USP 9 (+6), and nuclear missile (-6) for a final DM of +5. The roll of 2d6 is 6 is modified with the DM+5 for a result of 11 or Weapon-2. The firing player reduces the Sandcaster battery to USP 8 and the Beam Laser battery to USP 8. A second damage roll is made on the Radiation Damage Table. DMs are armor (+5) and weapon inflicting hit less than USP 9 (+6) for DM+11. The roll of 2d6 is 7 for a final of 18 or Weapon-1. The firing player reduces the Fusion Gun battery to USP 8.

Doctrinally speaking, a nuclear missile is best used against an armored target with no nuclear damper where the DM-6 can be used to offset some (or all) of the armor. This is especially true if the attacking missile USP is less than 9. A BPL is best used against large unarmored or weakly armored, low agility, near or lower computing-power targets that carry nuclear dampers. This is admittedly a very narrow target set and makes the usefulness of BPLs questionable.