View Full Version : Space Combat

2011-09-20, 04:51 PM
I am going to be GMing a spelljammer-based campaign sometime in the future. I was wondering what sort of system would work best for ship to ship combat? Specifically I am looking for one that allows for heavy ship customization and participation by the whole party in space battles.

2011-09-20, 06:38 PM
Probably having 2 planes for combat, with the center of each boat being the "bottom." That way you can customize both the top and bottom of the ship and then fight all pirate style.

Make the heavy weapons automatic (either due to workers or their just animated) and then you get a reflex save to dodge their fire. Each one has health like an equivalent animated object, and if detroyed can be cheaply repaired after the battle.

Mando Knight
2011-09-20, 07:29 PM
There's plenty, though none that I can think of are simply add-ons to D&D, if that's what you were hoping for.

The ones that come to mind are Star Wars SAGA and Mekton, which both approach it from a more sci-fi angle. Mekton actually approaches it from a Giant Robots angle, but contains rules for non-humanoid machines.

BESM or M&M could also work...

2011-09-21, 04:16 AM
Do you want to be realistic? That can get very complicated.
One way to simplify it would be to make it 2D, but still keep it Newtonian; you need to slow down to change trajectory, but you can turn on all available axis. Think of the game Asteroids or, for the really fogy, Spacewar!

2011-09-21, 04:39 AM
As (nearly) always, GURPS will do just fine. It has quite extensive rules on space combat and designing your own spacecraft (in the aptly named book "Spaceships" for 4e, or "Space" for 3e), which can be adapted to everything from realistic to Star Wars (plus there are a lot of books with examples). If you don't have a lot of 3e books already, I would recommend 4e. It is not dumbed down like most new editions (*ahem*D&D4*hack*Shadowrun4*cough*), they just re-sorted the rules to make them easier to find and fixed some bugs/balance issues (plus, they put a lot of stuff from the 3e supplements into the 4e core rules).

Totally Guy
2011-09-21, 05:10 AM
Just out of curiosity, what's the gist of the Spelljammer rules for spaceship combat?

2011-09-21, 08:24 AM
Star Wars Saga Edition has a pretty good system for space combat.
The whole party can participate and its d20. Access to actions is determined by what role you have on the ship.
I don't really remember how much customization is in the system. I think there's a some in the core book and quite a lot in the starships of the galaxy splat.
Not a perfect fit, but should be easy for you to adapt.

2011-09-21, 11:56 AM
I ran a D&D game with heavy space exploration elements awhile back. The main thing to watch out for is that unless you make available a lot of mechanical character options regarding using the ship, players will probably want to fight the enemy ship 'on foot', because that's the set of abilities they know well.

E.g. rather than fire the guns, they're going to want to get on deck and shoot bows at it. And given what you can do in D&D with regards to racking up large amounts of damage, they may actually be more effective at it than whatever stats you give the ship weaponry unless there's truly a scale difference. The casters in particular will want to use spells on the enemy ship that make no mention of the scale of the target, and things like that. Monks will want to use Arrow Deflection against the fusion missiles.

So I'd suggest either making available a (parallel) set of character options so that everyone has the ability to participate mechanically in the ship combat via their ship, or find a way to help people's character-scale mechanics apply naturally to the ship-scale fight.

With spellcasters, an easy thing to do is have some sort of amplifier built into the ship that lets their spells expand to ship scale if they cast into it, but for melee its not so clear. Maybe have little fighter-craft that are basically giant mecha that fight with rescaled weaponry? That might be the wrong genre for what you're going for, but it'd certainly let the party participate individually.

One thing I did for ship combat was that ship damage had both an intensity and area component (measured in 5ft sections and limited to the total area of the target), and the total damage to a ship that was hit by an attack was the product of the two. So a fireball that did 20 damage did 48*20 'ship scale damage'. The reason for this is so that ship weaponry isn't automatically the answer for personal scale fights, and so that stray blasts don't instakill anyone caught outside. Less realistic, but more survivable for the party. For instance, you could have a ship weapon that did 20 damage to an area of 200 5ft squares, and so had a damage rating of 4000, without doing 4000 damage to party members standing nearby.

This definitely favors blaster casters participating in personal scale though, since they can keep up with ship weaponry via Widen.

2011-09-21, 01:38 PM
You'd have to heavily hack it, but the basic idea is represented well by Battlestations. You build your own ship and fly missions. Everyone in the crew has a role -- pilot actually flies the ship (that would be the caster at the spelljaming helm), other people operate weapons, repair damage, find out information about the enemy ship, launch themselves across the other ship to board it and fight the crew, etc. It's pretty fun. It's sci-fi so it doesn't directly translate, but I'd recommend looking at it for ideas and maybe even doing a re-skin.