Saturday, June 16, 2012

Flight School

This post is to explain the most advanced movement rules in 5150 Fringe Space. These rules are for those players who want to be put into the pilot's seat. There will also be a heavily simplified vector movement system (without different drive types, for example) for those who like vector movement but not being a pilot, and also a "cinematic" movement system that reflects the sort of movement seen in Star Wars and 5150: Wing Leader. This will allow players to pick the system most appropriate to their tastes and setting, while still  being able to use the RPG, combat, and campaign rules in Fringe Space.
"We're only 120,000km out from Base Delta-two four, BBnG," said Joss Sackbag, the pilot of the Nirvana (Speed 8 Mobility 4).
"That's good. I've been looking forward to Bob's Bar and Grill all day. Best darn sauce in the 3rd Ring,"said Ted Yew, owner and definitely-not-pilot of the Nirvana.
"Don't get too excited, its your turn to be designated driver."
"Drive? I don't know how to drive a space ship!"
"Its simple!"
"Simple? Its all vectors and fuel and engines! Why doesn't the computer just go where I tell it?"
"Hey now," Joss stood up and pushed Ted into the seat, "just sit down and I'll show you how its done."
Ted looked at the array of buttons, levers, and screens that lay before him. In the center was a large green button. "This is why only weirdos pilot ships."
"Hush, now. Alright, see that button over there? Thats the main drives..."
*NOTE: Where measurements are made in centimeters, they may also be made in inches. In Fringe Space they will be listed as inches but with a note that it is also possible to use centimeters for those who prefer it. I personally do, as it makes the games larger.*
There are 4 types of movement in Fringe Space:
1) Main Drives, which adds (up to) your Speed to your current velocity in the direction facing away from the main drives (in other words, forwards). Some of the main drives that really give you that extra kick can take awhile to accelerate, however, so this sort of movement has a delay-- you only add half of your speed on the first turn of movement. This is easily seen by using two markers (or just remembering for a half second), one to represent this turn's movement, the other to represent next turn's movement.
2) Turning. A ship may turn 45˚ for each Mobility. For simplicity, turning is not maintained across turns, unlike velocity.
3) Maneuver Thrusters. A ship may add one cm of speed in any direction per Mobility. As these are quick little bursts of energies and not a slow but steady acceleration, this is all applied at once, unlike the Main Drives.
4) Antimatter Drives, which work like Main Drives but are three times as fast. They cost 3x or more fuel, depending on the skill of your engineer. This makes them good for running away or surprising your opponent.

Where things get interesting is that, in a given turn, movement types 1-3 can be combined. 4 is a separate action that may not be combined with other movement types.
Here are the ways moves can be combined:
A) A ship may use Maneuver Thrusters and Main Drives at the same time. However, the Maneuver Thrusters facing forward are taken into account in Speed already, so when doing this combination, maneuver thrusters may only be applied sideways. Backwards is theoretically allowed, but you would never do it because it would have the same effect as just thrusting without using all speed.
B) A ship may Turn while using Main Drives at the same time. This is effectively the same as thrusting with 3/4 speed (rounded for simplicity) in the "middle" angle of the turn. For example, if I have Speed 8 and Mobility 4, I may turn my ship around and apply 6" of speed to the 90 degree angle between "forwards" and "backwards," AKA "sideways."
C) A ship may Turn and THEN use Maneuver Thrusters, or vice versa, but not both at the same time. If my ship is Mobility 4, then I may turn 45˚ and change my velocity by 3cm in any direction.
D) A ship may turn and THEN use Main Drives, or vice versa. This works similar to C. Instead of getting 1cm per Mobility not used for turning, you get the equivalent fraction of Speed. For example, with a Speed 8, Mobility 4 ship, I may turn 90˚ and then accelerate 4cm. This is because I have half of my Mobility unused, and so may use half of my speed.

In theory, some very complex maneuvers can be performed by a high performance ship with an experienced player. In this way, Fringe Space is like a flight sim. That said, most of the time a player can get the same effect by using one of the basic moves, though it may mean that in subsequent turns the ship isn't faced quite the way a skilled pilot would have faced it. In that way, Fringe Space is a game that is accessible.

In my own experience, Main Drives are used to set the "flow" of your ships, Turning and Maneuvers are used to keep the enemy in sight of your weapons and adjust velocity for the changing shape of the battle, and Antimatter Drives are used in daring game changing moments-- be they a sudden retreat or a ship far off from the main battle suddenly zooming in to rescue its beleaguered allies.

(Note that in play I only use one marker per ship/group... I don't find the nickel to be necessary, as it is immediately replaced by a ship or moved itself, but it helps when explaining photographs).

Alright, we'll start with the basics... the main drive.

Our ship is Speed 8, so its velocity at the end of the turn will be 8 in front of the ship (the penny)... but, the ship will only move 4 of those in the turn of acceleration, as the Main Drives take awhile to build up the speed (the nickel). 

To show this, the penny is put 8 in front of the nickel, instead of 4, while the nickel remains only 4 in front of the ship. Move the ship to the nickel...

... and then the nickel to the penny.

Bob's Bar and Grill is still thousands of km out, so we're going to drift for awhile. put the penny 8 in front of the nickel-- the same distance between the ship and the nickel. The nickel marks where our ship will be after this movement phase, and the penny represents its velocity for subsequent turns. 

While we're drifting, turn the ship around... put the ship on the penny and turn it 45˚ for every mobility. Nirvana is pretty agile, so she'll be doing a 180˚ in this turn. Note that the penny doesn't move-- we did not change course, just facing. 
At the start of the next turn, we still have 8 velocity towards the Bar, but we're facing the opposite direction.

Now we're going to start doing some fancy stuff. Use the Maneuver Drives to change course--  up to 4 in any direction. 

This marks our new destination for the turn, after the adjustment.

Another view...

The ship is moved to its destination (the nickel), while the destination marker (the penny) is moved an equal distance in the same direction. 

See? You're already flying backwards and using two drive types! Now for something really crazy....

Spin the ship around while the main drive is thrusting! As you can see, the ship is flipped around again, but the destination marker will be moved 3 "up," the middle angle of our turn.

As the main drives were the cause of the change in destination, on subsequent turns the velocity will actually be adjusted by 6 up, not 3 (this is shown by the penny.

The ship is moved to the destination for this turn while the penny is moved  the same way, but keeping the extra 3 change. This means our ship moved almost exactly "right" this turn, but will in subsequent turns move on a slight diagonal, "up-right."

We're getting close to the Grill! I can almost taste that sauce! 
The Nickel decides it can't wait with the ship and charges towards the delicious BBQ.

Alright, now we're going to turn 45˚ to line our ship up with the dock (note that in the actual game you don't need to do this as all very close range movement is abstracted). We'll use our remaining 3 mobility to adjust our course to get closer to the dock.

After the course is adjusted, the ship is moved, as is the destination marker (from the penny to the nickel, switching things up a bit).

Nickel is confused-- he thought what Nirvana and he had was special.

Things are back to normal.

The next turn the ship uses mobility to slow down enough that, combined with the close proximity and proper facing, Nirvana may initiate docking procedures.

 "Okay, I think I get it!" Ted said.
"Good, I'm just looking forward to BBQ and Bourbon at this point..."
"Just one more question," Ted asked, "What does this big green button do?"
"Well that-"
"Initiates docking procedures, right? Boy, I'm picking this up fast!" Ted pressed the button.
"What?!? NO!!!"
Joss and Ted are pressed against their seats as the Antimatter Drives kick in, propelling the ship away from the Bar and Grill....
Here we see the ship being moved to the penny (12), while the velocity marker is placed at twice that distance from the  penny (the nickel). Note that in the actual game the ship can just be moved to a marker and then the marker can be moved twice that distance; two markers are not needed, even for Main/Antimatter Drives.

Joss sat, stunned, as the delicious BBQ of Bob's Bar and Grill, just a moment ago only meters away, suddenly was just a distance star behind his ship. 
Ted broke the silence, "... I guess I won't be designated driver, then."


  1. Indeed. When I use my larger micromachines models I use inches instead. I think it ultimately comes down to what looks best with the ships and how much ground you want to cover-- there is a lot more room to maneuver with cm, but inches let the action stay pretty condensed-- there are less times where no one can shoot each other because the range is so large.