Thursday, July 21, 2011

To Kill a Battleship....

So the last post resulted in some rather interesting discussion (both on this post as well as at TMP) over the differences and virtues of different damage systems.

I think I've identified the main 'types' of systems, and I've also noticed that most are actually rather similar (so yes, I do think a specific, inherent preference for one over another is somewhat silly, but its still legitimate).

1) Damage Level systems, where all ships essentially have an equal number of HP, but they are given names instead of numbers (Fine, Damaged, Destroyed, for example). Ships have different defenses by their ability to avoid changing damage levels. (Traditional THW, more or less)

2) Special Damage systems- usually combined with other systems, but sometimes IS the system, so that the way to 'kill' another ship is to knock out all of its systems (though there is usually a way to Overkill and just blow the dang thing up). (Starfire)

3) Hit Points- like damage levels, but another thing that distinguishes ships is that bigger ships have MORE damage levels than smaller ships. Number instead of names. (BFG)

4) Threshold systems, where the damage is compared to a chart, and if it gets past a certain threshold, it has certain effects (these either being Damage Levels or Special Damage). (GOPS)

Anyway, what I think I'm settling on is the following rule:

Every hitting shot has its Impact subtracted by the Armor of the ship being hit. A D6 is added to this number.

(this next bit will likely be tweaked on the specific numbers)
Every shot that is below zero causes a "Been Shot" test. (cinematically: the ship is hit, but the weapon painlessly glances off, or causes a surface blast mark, causing the crew to return fire and evade)

Shots that are zero to 3 cause a "Shaken" test. (cinematically: the crew are thrown around the deck. Perhaps a few computers explode on the bridge. Small external bits- parts of wings, tips of rockets, etc, are blown off. It is possible that more damage is caused if the Fixers onboard don't prevent that small fire from blowing a hole in the ship...)

4-6 results in Light Damage (as well as a test that can worsen the damage to Heavy if failed). Cinematically: An explosion rocks the ship! Outer hull is totally gone in the area directly hit by enemy fire. There is a breach! Fires are inside, and there are probably a few casualties. Functionally the ship is still well within the area where it can operate, however, as most crew remain alive (possibly in space suits, however), the damage is repairable (though the results may not look as pretty as the shiny white exterior previously did), and the small breach doesn't prevent the engines from pushing the cockpit and guns to where they need to go, so... fight on!

7-8 results in Heavy Damage (with a test for going to Severe). Cinematically: The ship is starting to look pretty bad. Large chunks of the ship are gone, there are either several small breaches or a single large one, multiple fires on board, multiple dead. Without the optional Special Damage rules, the ship is still functioning, however.

9-10 is Severe Damage. (with a test for going Kaboom!) The ship is effectively dead, except that it can still shoot some types of weapons and can still repair. Cinematically, the ship is a Drifting Dead. What essentially makes it different form a Kaboom! ship is that there are a few survivors on board, and possibly (depending on if you are using optional special damage rules and whether or not those have affected your weapons) a few working, smaller, low power weapons. The survivors, no doubt floating through the exposed interior of the wrecked ship, do have a chance, however; good Fixers can get power running again, and slowly fix the ship so that it may once again fly.

11+ KABOOM! Self explanatory.

Adding Damage: example: if a ship is Light Damaged, then an additional Light Damage will send them into Heavy Damage. Here are all of them:

Light + Light = Heavy
Light + Heavy = Severe
Light + Severe = Roll again for chance of Kaboom and add Special Damage Effects, if in use.
Heavy + Heavy = Kaboom
Heavy + Severe = Kaboom

Repairing Damage: it is possible to reduce your current damage level with successful repairs (based on current damage type). Pretty self explanatory. In theory this means a ship that is pretty much dead can become a working ship again, but this takes awhile, requires some luck, and is unlikely to happen, especially if you are using special damage effects.

In addition, there will be optional special damage effects, which add a random chance for special damage from ANY attack (including shots that do not penetrate, though it will be rarer for them) as well as mandatory (though the actual effect would be random, you'd definitely get one if using these rules) special damage effects for different damage levels.
These do, in effect, make damage levels WORSE than they were before, so if you are using them, you have to use them for all ships within the game.
When repairing with special damage, you must repair all special damage (not including crew damage, which cannot be repaired, or loss of fuel, which is gone for good) down to the amount that you get mandatorily for the damage level below your current damage level before repairing a damage level.

Example: I am Heavily Damaged, with 2 special damage effects. To reduce to Light Damage (which causes 1 Special Damage Effect) I would need to first repair 1 special damage effect, and then repair the Heavy Damage down to Light Damage.

This basically makes it impossible to repair out of Severe  Damage, as you are probably going to be severely damaged by being hit more than once, meaning you'll have something like 5 or 6 special damage effects in addition to the severe damage... so you'll be able to repair bits and pieces (get a gun working again, get some more armor working again, get the computers working, whatever) but it'll take longer than a lot of games last to really get back to a fully working condition.

So wait, I here the masses  cry, it is as easy to kill a battleship as to kill a fighter, if they have the same armor?


But as Hull is still an attribute used in ship design, that situation will be rare. Hull will be used to determine how many Weapons, Armor, Cargo, Engines, even Speed (though base speed is smaller as you get  bigger, if you devote enough of that space to powerful engines, you can get that ship to move faster), and to a certain extent, maneuverability (similar story to Speed), as well as 'maneuver thrusters' which can help your ship move around without turning.

In effect, very, very rarely will you see a big ship that has less armor than a little ship. Similar to how its hard to fit many guns on a little ship, while a big ship has lots. The advantages of less Hull is that you have higher starting values (which are modified by the design) for things like speed and maneuverability.

Little ships also have the advantage of usually needing less fuel (they can refuel at the carrier), not needing cargo (well, they could, but only a little... most ships of this size are just the cargo of a bigger ship, anyway), dogfighting abilities, being harder to hit, all of which free up space (in one way or another) to let them have the things they need- nice guns, maneuver thrusters, and a bit of armor.

I'm actually really liking the implications of this system... thoughts?


  1. Overall it sounds fantastic. Couple tweaks/clarifications I would feel good about:

    1) Crew Rep (or whatever) tests for 'been shot' are taken with modifers for successive damage levels. Light Damage may not knock out systems, but could affect performance.

    2) Make the above race specific tests. Trade Federation might panic at small damage, Reavers wouldn't care, Klingons might ram you if they believe they are going down anyway!

    3) Make sure ramming is an option! ;)

  2. 1) Its built into the test.
    2) Some tests are, some tests are... but other than the named 5150 races, I think I'll have generic 'type tests" based upon the 'role' of a ship.... is it an 'aggressive alien?' (klingon like) or 'beast alien' (reavers, tyranids, maybe Borg even)? And for within humans, you'll have military, exploration, merchants... all with different tests.
    3) It is, but its basically suicide (both sides usually die from it, and when you are ramming, you tend to be desperate, so you rarely even make it). Boarding is also an option.

  3. If this means less recordkeeping, I'm in favor of it. Pretty much every spaceship game has some kind of stat sheet for every model on the table, and I'd like to see a game with no need for such (my own homebrew reduces this to a single line per ship, and a whole fleet fits on a single page). War Rocket does something similar to eliminate the need for stat sheets, but I've only played it a couple of times.

  4. You'd still need some form of recordkeeping for special damage (I suppose tokens would work)- personally I intend to just use special damage for games at a scale where I'm comfortable keeping records on a ship by ship basis.

    I'm happy that such an esteemed name as Desert Scribe graces my humble blog. Your majesty. ; )

  5. What about firing arcs? One of your original battle reports mentioned adding them..our more of them...just wondering...out will turrets cost more space compared to broad side guns our fwd only mistakes for example...looks good though...keep up the good work


  6. In one of the first games I played (since rewriting the movement rules; before they were more like a mixture of cinematic and vector) I only had missiles use firing arcs, but that was before I made turrets cost more space. I'm thinking that if a ship is big enough certain weapons are automatically turreted, but I'm not sure I'd need to play around with the numbers before I decide to include that or not.

  7. It looks alright, but I'm a reificationist: Show me how you envision it working out, step by step, in actual play, and I can work with it. Short of that it looks like it is workable.

    The hull results table might be better structured as:

    Severe (roll for special)

    ... with Light hits bumping you up one step on the chart, Heavy hits 2, Severe 3. More direct and more easy to mark down than the bit in the post proper, I think.

    Though looking at this, you're not going to see much in the way of hit endurance out of most ships. With that damage scale track, the d6 is a good bump up to Heavy even with a weapon only equal to the Armour, it takes three shots to take them out, as Light->Heavy->Severe(Maybe Kaboom Today)->Kaboom goes pretty quick -- even quicker if some special results decrease the ability of the ship to reduce that damage, like reducing Armour or bumping up the Damage Roll by 1. Maybe that's the desired effect, but again, its one of those things I'd rather like to see depicted as to how its expected to flow alongside how what levels you expect weapons and armour to be set to.

    Just as a lower bound, Fightercraft will need to have an average Armour of 2 just to have room for variation between "light" versions and heavy versions. Which puts the bottom of Escorts at 4 and up from there. But weapons designed to attrit the larger classes of ship will be truly brutal on the lower ones, which acts as a little bit of negative pressure on mixed-scale fleets.

    Just some thoughts randomly kicking around after a run-through here.

  8. You might note that the 'damage adding' works just as you outlined except that Light+Severe doesn't equal Kaboom. Thats currently just for balance purposes, but with more play testing I might change that (this new system I only tried out in a small 2v2 game yesterday).

    Depending on design I see most combat fighters having Armor of 1-3 with some possibly having more (4-6, even) or less (0). Assuming a normal load out for engines, weapons, etc, fighters would be 2, but with the extra 'cargo' are repurposed for combat use (as most fighters would), that can easily be bumped up to 3 (or you can have more weapons). Similarly you can trade armor for speed, weapons, engine/fuel space... design gives a lot of options.

    I did intentionally make it that most ships won't last that long (though smaller ships have advantages towards not getting hit, and in dogfights can really beat up bigger ships, even one on one), but I'm still in the process of tweaking armor numbers (though I think I'll stick with the current numbers to make tweaking the others easier), weapon impacts, and the actual numbers in the damage table.