Thursday, October 17, 2013

Balancing Acts

Joy of wondrous joys!  I can blog from my work computer again!

No longer am I stuck with XP and IE 6...or 7.  Or whatever dinosaur I was saddled with.  Now I'm on IE 9 and can actually type things in this field on my Blogger page.  Hopefully this will go a long way to getting back on track with my weekly updates.
How very "Miami Vice"...

This week marked the start of my "Wild Cards" campaign.  The first pc group in my multi-party "Another Longshot" game, the Wild Cards mixes Star Wars with "The A-Team".  I'm planning on it being more episodic than over-arching.  There will be sub-plots that carry from one game to the next, like clearing their names and getting revenge on the Sith that set them up for war crimes.  For the most part, however, the group will be getting together every other Tuesday night over G+/Roll20 for a couple hours, and kicking around the Edge of the Empire in small, 2-3 session adventures.

Translation Trouble

It wouldn't be a Star Wars game, or any sci-fi space opera game really, without "The Ship".  This game is no different.  The backstory is that the Wild Cards stole a military ship to escape their stockade, but traded it in to a contact one of the PCs knows to get something less conspicuous (or traceable).  Fiddleback selected and recommended a ship from one of my favorite sources; Star Wars Gamer issue #2.  That particular magazine was the second issue of the old WotC-printed, Dragon Magazine equivalent for their d20 Star Wars game.  The article was called "A Legacy of Starships" by Owen KC Stephens with art by Jeff Carlisle.  It gave write ups and stats for ten different and never before seen Corellian Engineering Corporation freighters, from eras just before the Prequel Movies to well after the latest novels. 
Old school, yo

This particular craft Fiddy selected was the YV-929 Armed Freighter.  Top of the line during the end of the Galactic Civil War, 130 years later the ship is a relic and an antique.  The thing is a brick; great armor and shields for a transport, with a solid cargo hold.  It boasts some pretty significant armament too; triple-blasters, concussion missiles, ion cannon turrets, and oddly enough two light turbolaser cannons.  This was of particular note because turbolasers have always been the realm of frigate-sized capital ships and higher, in just about every iteration of the game.  They were light turbolasers, for sure, and would merely threaten a capital ship for a moment or two, but against a similarly sized transport the turbolasers would pound it to scrap in short order.

This was back during the OCR days (Original Core Rulebook).  Since then the game updated to Revised Core, and Saga Edition.  The 929 didn't make an appearance in Saga, but the starship construction stats made it pretty clear that you can't mount turbolasers on your average Space Transport.

Several months back, the ship appeared in the Equipment Labs series of articles on the GSA Website.  Agent 35 did a good job pulling the ship over to FFG stats, and included all of its unusual armament.  These were the stats that Fiddleback showed me during the game on Tuesday.  I was all over it, but then I noticed in my copy of the Age of Rebellion sourcebook that the YV-929 is fully and officially statted out!  Some of the stats were better than Agent 35's, like sensors, handling and shields.  Some were worse, like customization hardpoints and the armament.  The number of missile tubes were decreased, and the turbolasers were removed entirely.

My conundrum is to stick with the official FFG stats, or the ones from Star Wars Gamer?  Most of the official stats are just fine, and I had no issues with those.  I'm a little put off by there being only one Customization Hardpoint, but the ship is pretty well tricked out on its own. The lack of Turbolasers takes away a pretty flavorful, and potent, feature of the starship.  I can see why FFG removed it, it sets a really bad precedence for mounting anti-capital ship guns on a PC's craft.  Everyone would be doing it, and things would get real interesting in the galaxy with all these ships mounting serious military hardware.

A Matter of Scale

Art by Jeff Carlisle
The big reason the turbolasers were so nasty in d20 was the multiplier.  Vehicle weapons did more damage than personal weapons, usually to the effect of doubling the damage rolled.  Capital scale weapons, like the turbolasers, multiplied that by five.  So even if the damage you're rolling is low, in this case 3d10, you're quintupling the number rolled.  That's an average of 5.5 per die rolled, 16.5 on a 3 die total for an average of 85 damage per successful hit.  Considering that an X-Wing's laser cannons average 66 damage (6d10x2 damage), that's not that much more damage.  Even maxed out the light lurbolaser only deals 25% more damage than the X-Wing's quad laser blast.  Both will still paste enemy fighters that lack shields, and two solid hits will clear everything else.

Turbolasers in FFG are just as nasty, but on a different level.  X-Wing lasers deal 6 damage, in a galaxy where TIEs can only take 6 damage before being blown apart.  Sure, they have an Armor rating of 2, but X-Wing guns have "Linked 3", which means the attacker can spend two Advantage to trigger another hit on the target, up to 3 times.  Two 6 point hits will paste a TIE.  They also have a range of "Close", meaning the fighters need to move in to be able to hit each other.

Light Turbolasers have a base damage of 9, one more than a proton torpedo.  They have Breach 2, meaning they ignore 2 points of Armor with each hit.  They do have "Slow-Firing 1", which relegates the cannons to every-other-round attacks.  But the big thing they have is a Medium Range.  They can start laying in on enemies from quite a fair distance away, even farther away than proton torpedoes and concussion missiles.

What kind of damage could PCs do with turbolaser cannons? 5 hits would take out a Bulk Transport.  A YT-1300 like the Millennium Falcon would be pasted in 3.  Even Corellian Corvettes and Marauder Corvettes are threatened, to a degree.

It's not like the PCs would be in an unstoppable battle-tank, though.  The YV-929 has good shields, and good armor, but it's not impervious.  The single customization hardpoint also limits the upgrades that can be undertaken.  It can't increase its armor or shields.  If it does decide to go up against a Corellian Corvette, it'll get two shots off before the Corvette responds with potentially four of its own (two light, and two medium turbolasers).  Aside from the turbolasers, the YV-929's weapons are decent, but limited.  The triple blasters are awfully light, potentially not even breaching the Armor on some enemy craft.  The Ion turret is slightly better.  It carries missiles, sure, but with a limit of 10 per launcher they need to be rationed, especially if the players can't resupply too often.

Yay or Nay?

I'm tempted to say that the turbolasers are in, but it comes at a cost of the one customization hard point.  I'm also tempted to just give the players the turbolasers and try it, see if it becomes a problem.  I could always take them away with a well timed Despair result on their part, or a Triumph on the part of an attacker.  I could replace them with some beefed up Heavy Laser cannons.  I've got choices, and time will tell how it turns out.

Worrying about the game balance of imaginary weaponry; I'm such a nerd.

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