Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Episode 61: Strike Formation

It’s that time again!  I’m DarthGM, and this is episode 61 of Fragments from the Rim.  This episode is mostly going to be for GMs, but you players may enjoy the subject too.

It is my humble opinion that you cannot have a Star Wars campaign without a liberal helping of starship combat.  Every movie starts in space, the camera panning to some ship arriving at a planet or engaged in combat with an adversary.  But running space combat in SAGA can get tricky.  At low levels, space combat can get pretty lethal, a couple good rolls on hit and damage and your PCs are sucking vacuum.  At higher levels the PCs have their ships tricked out so much that out-of-the-book opponents are more of a nuisance than a threat.  I’ve found that following the rules for Starship Maneuvers from the Starships of the Galaxy sourcebook gives my NPC ships a nice little bump.  It makes them more of a credible threat as well as making them more interesting for my PCs to fight.

While characters only have to worry about the maneuvers they have.  A GM is running multiple craft, though, and can sometimes get overwhelmed trying to keep track of various maneuvers. I have found one maneuver in particular that is easy to keep track of, makes the enemy starfighter more of a threat, and makes them a fun opponent for the PCs; Strike Formation.  It’s an "Attack Pattern", meaning once you activate it, that ship gains the benefit of the power until they decide to end it or activate another attack pattern.  While Strike Formation is active, all weapons on that ship deal an additional die of damage, but you take a -2 to your ship’s Reflex Defense.  It’s a swift action to activate, needs a Pilot Check with a DC of 20, and lasts until a swift action is spent to end it.

In one of my games, the PCs have a freighter and an accompanying starfighter.  They’ve acquired the best shields they can fit onto a colossal freighter, with a shield rating of 55.  They also have four gun emplacements on the ship.  While the Pilot and the Soldier trained in Heavy Weapons have no problem hitting enemy craft, everyone else in the party suffers a -5 to their attack rolls when trying to defend the ship [because they're not proficient with the mounted weapons].  On the other side, most enemy craft they come up against are firing weapons with a base damage of 5d10x2.  The average damage of those weapons  is 56; barely enough to get through their shields, nevermind the damage resistance of their hull.  With the enemies not able to threaten the PCs, and half the PC party unable to hit the enemies, space combat tends to drag on and be a bore for many.

With Strike Formation, the enemies are more of a threat, meaning every shot that hits has an increased chance of dealing a little more hull damage, and it lowers their defenses so the gunners who are firing with a penalty have more of a chance to participate in, and enjoy, the space combat encounter.  According to page 29 of Starships of the Galaxy, any ship with a “Skilled” crew rating can have one Maneuver.  If you find yourself running space combat encounters that sound a lot like my previous example, consider giving your enemy fighters this maneuver.

Time to break formation, Gamer Nation.  Until next time, Gamer Nation; 20-side up, 1-side down.

Originally aired on the Order 66 Podcast, Episode 115 "Vong but not Forgotten"

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