Wednesday, December 17, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Starships

We focus so much on rocketship style designs in sci-fi fantasy and then complain about how they are just unrealistic analogs of sea-going battleships. Which makes me wonder, "Why aren't we using saucers?" ~ Me.

Starships may not be the focus of gameplay, but they are a huge part of the setting. What's more they require their own special rules systems.

I've been puttering around, looking at how the Sci-Fi Companion, Slipstream, Daring Tales of the Space Lanes, and even 50 Fathoms handles ship combat. Only one fit the bill of what I want.

I wanted to avoid any new rules or subsystems as much as possible. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is the order of the day and while I like the Sci-Fi Companion, I think it added too much complexity in a Savage Worlds game. So I am going with Daring Tales of the Space lanes Starship supplement (which I already own). Wiggy approached each genre with KISS in mind when he did his Daring Tales series and if you haven't checked them out, you should (I have links on the Free Stuff page).

I also chose DTotSL because it makes operating the shields an active task rather than flipping a switch. I want starship combat to be a team effort and the more stations available to players to choose from, the less likely that someone will be twiddling their thumbs while the pilot does all of the work.

I considered possibly building my own system to handle starships but I don't have that kind of time and I don't want to go through a lot of revisions as mistakes come out in gameplay.

So the feel I am going for in my ship combat is less Star Wars and more Star Trek, less WWII and more "Age of Discovery/ Piracy'. So no starfighters, nothing smaller than a shuttle. The reasons for this are...

  • Starfighters encourage splitting the party.
  • FTL is a big part the game and who wants to spend a week in a tiny cockpit, let alone how would you fit an FTL drive into something that small.
  • I want more of an 'age of piracy' feel to travel and combat than a 'World War II' feel. Imagine Star Wars during the age of piracy with Luke Skywalker attacking an Imperial Man o' War in his Incom T65 Dinghy.
  • Everybody does starfighters.
  • I've been reading projections of what real space combat will be like and while reality isn't something I'm striving for, most experts agree that a manned starfighter is a fairly useless thing.
It was that last bit that got me thinking about sci-fi without the starfighters. It started to feel more retro, more Flash Gordon and Commander Cody. I liked the idea.

And in searching the web for a "free to reuse" spaceship image, I came across that flying saucer cross section. Maybe it is time to bring that design back and kick the rockets to the curb. 

Extra rules I'm adding: 
  • Heavy Weapons ignore standard armor (honestly I'm surprised this isn't in the RAW).
  • I'm using my simplified ranges instead of the ranges listed for weapons in DTotSL. My conversion is <48=Medium, <96=Long, <200=Extreme.

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