[Solar] But what about the Space Battles?

Started by Simon JB, September 15, 2008, 02:57:19 PM

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Simon JB

So, I'm setting up a space campaign with a feel of Firefly and Stargate Atlantis with the stiff-upper-lip officer class from early nineteenth century naval culture. And I really want to use Solar System for it, since at the moment that's my first choice because of the way it focuses on personal themes and character growth.

But I need space battles, as well.

Now, you veterans, what do you think I should do? I guess the basic, Solar, way would be to let the conflict stand between the captains of the ships, using the ships as equipment. But I can't help feeling that that would be a bit unsatisfactory considering the genre. The question is if Solar System would be the wrong tool for this.

I guess basically what I would like is to have ships work as characters, using support rolls from their crews and captains. But I'm afraid that would require a lot of new crunch, with ship-specific abilities, secrets and pools - perhaps even keys!

I'm just not sure whether that's a bad idea and that I should just go with Fate instead, or if it would rather be a very, very cool idea.

Any helpful thoughts out there?

- Simon


Ships shouldn't have keys, unless they have AIs that are played as other player characters are. Which might be a nice idea anyway.

You may want to look at StarStruck for one specific implementation of tsoy-based space combat.

Here is another idea:

Ships are characters. They have three Pools: Hull, Drives, Sensors. The passive abilities are: Stability (H), Evasion (D), Tactical (S). There are six active abilities: [...], Maneuver (D), Speed (D), Jamming (S), [...].

Ships can only use their abilities if they are chained with the Command (V) [Hull-based],  Piloting (I) [Drives], or Science  (R) [Sensor] abilities.

Secret of the Autopilot: The Ship has an autopilot computer. It can use Drives based skills without a human operator, but it does get an automatic penalty die.

Secret of the Tactical Console: The Ship has basic tactical programming. It can use Sensor based abilities without a human operator, but it does get an automatic penalty die.

Secret of of Honeycomb Structure: The Ship's structure is especially sturdy, allowing it to use Hull-based abilities without a human operator, but it does get an automatic penalty die.

Secret of the AI Operator: The Ship has an AI that governs it's basic functionality. If it has any of the three aforementioned Secrets, it does not get automatic penalty dice from operating without a crew.

And so on...

Eero Tuovinen

Interestingly enough, Full Light, Full Steam seems to be about this exact thing. I haven't familiarized myself thoroughly enough yet to recommend the rules system (there are bits I like, but I also loathe the point-based chargen, as I tend to do in all games), but the setting is amusing, and there certainly are rules for ship-to-ship battles.

That being said, let's see what Solar System can do! I don't watch much scifi television, but I know my military scifi (the literary genre). You tell me where we go wrong...

Enlisted ranks in Eero's space navy

Secret of Enlistment
The character is an enlisted man out of basic training, ready to serve on a space ship. He is bound by military discipline during his tour of duty. The enlisted man is able to donate Pool when following orders of his superiors, as detailed below. Requirements: Good basic physique and no obvious signs of mutations or other typical player character freakshow stuff.

Secret of Petty Officer
The character has been promoted into a non-commissioned officer. He has enlisted men under his authority. The petty officer may draw one Pool point from each enlisted man under his orders when they help him on a task; such Pool points have to be spent immediately. Secondary characters ordered around in this way start to grumble, however, unless the petty officer succeeds in a Leadership (I) check now and then with a degree of success equal to the amount of Pool he draws at once. Grumbling enlisted personnel are considered to have temporarily lost their enlistment. Requirements: Secret of Enlistment

Secret of Warrant Officer
Warrant officers are the highest ranking petty officers. They order around other petty officer and enlisted men. The warrant officer may draw Pool "through" other petty officers he orders around, and may also draw one Pool directly from each petty officer; he needs to only make Leadership checks for the petty officers and enlisted men he draws from directly, while the petty officers take care of their own men. The warrant officer may also give the Pool he draws to those higher up in the command chain. Requirements: Secret of Petty Officer

Secret of Spaceman, First Class (specialty)
The character is actually good at his job, and thus may make Ability checks for his specialty when following orders in fulfilling it. The check result is then transferred as Pool to the command chain. Cost: 1 Pool appropriate to the Ability. Requirements: Secret of Enlistment

Secret of Grumbling
The character is a troublemaker. When he is grumbling (players decide themselves when their character becomes fractitious), the character may create and uphold an Effect of "Resentment towards superiors (I)" for free with a Resist (R) check. The Effect can be used or gifted to others normally. Requirements: Secret of Enlistment

Secret of Exhortation
The character is a nightmare NCO, able to make men give their all. When ordering an enlisted man around, the petty officer may check Leadership (R) to draw the result in Pool points from the enlisted man instead of just one point. Emptying a Pool in this manner breaks the man, however, causing Harm equal to any the difference the target is unable to pay. Extras always pay in full and break down afterwards. The target may opt to Resist (R), which reduces the Pool drain directly. Requirements: Secret of Petty Officer

Officers in Eero's space navy

Secret of Commission
The character is a commissioned officer, and thus has access to the difficult array of military scifi abilities necessary to run a spaceship. Astronavigation (R), Piloting (I), Weaponry (R), Sensors (I), Tactics (I) and Logistics (R) are examples of Abilities officers specialize in.

Secret of Subordinate Officer
The character is not yet a commissioned officer, but he's studying to become one. Success requires a Quest, at which point this Secret is exhanged for Secret of Commission. Appropriate Quest conflicts include courage under fire, wise decisions in tense situations and whatever the commanding officer might think up. Of course, if the character is in officer school instead of an operating ship, the situation is a bit different. While subordinate, the character can learn commissioned Abilities and be assigned into officer-like roles on the ship, but will suffer a penalty die to anything he does as an officer substitute.

(Quests are this thing I have in Finnish TSoY. Short explanation is that you track successes through three separate conflicts where the quest is at stake - three successful conflicts ends the quest. The counterstakes of individual conflicts do not necessarily include outright failure for the quest, but then, it's also possible to end up in situations where the stakes do not progress the quest but loss might still cause it to fail. Lots of options there.)

Secret of Command
Officers in the command chain have some leadership abilities. The character may draw Pool with Leadership (I) like a warrant officer, and he may draw from any enlisted personnel under his command. Requirements: Secret of Commission

Secret of the Bridge (commander)
The character has a working relationship with the Captain of the ship (or other character in the command chain), which means that he may receive Pool from the officer in question when executing his duty. The commanding officer determines how much he gives, if any. This usually requires being in the same room, and is mostly useful for the bridge crew, who can't waste time ordering enlisted crew around anyway. Requirements: Secret of Commission or Secret of Enlistment

Ships in Eero's space navy

Ships consist of modular parts activated with Pool points channeled by officers and NCOs. The ships and their modular parts themselves are Effects, like so:

Fighter Plane - 1/R - scale 1
Piloting (I) - 1 Instinct - moving around and shooting things.

Which is to say, the character with this light, individually manned craft needs to pay 1 Instinct per scene merely to keep the plane in operation and his Piloting access available. That access is key, as the character can't use the fighter plane in conflicts without the plane allowing him to use his ability through it. With the plane, though, he can transform his piloting into moving around and shooting things. Simple.

The access costs of ships need to be paid again in each new scene and after each Ability check made via the ship. Extended conflicts are very expensive, as you need to pay the access costs again and again each time you decide to use a particular ship or module.

As the smart reader probably realizes by now, it probably won't be you who pays those Pool costs - it's the poor enlisted men on your ship, aided by the NCOs. The absolutely vital basic requirement of a functioning space ship, therefore, is the chain of command: you need to have the enlisted men toiling away, lugging ammunition, polishing bulkheads and in general keeping the ship in operation, just to generate (or, rather, reallocate) those Pool points. You need a bunch of petty officers to collect the Pool, and warrant or command chain officers to distribute the points to where they are needed.

Where are they needed? This depends totally on the composition of the player character set, as we're always focusing on them. Just as you would normally, you give most attention to the player characters, second-most to important NPCs and almost none at all to others. What this means in practice is that PC officers will probably have one or more space ship modules listed as Effects: the officer who has a given module listed will need to pay the activation costs for that module, so that's where those Pool points will need to go.

In reality you won't be simulating the whole ship, really. You'll just simulate as much as you need to, and assume that the rest of it runs slightly-below-average, thanks to the efforts of the NPC crew. Just play this part in the same way you'd play it in earthbound adventure: the SG decides how any conflicts between secondary characters go, while the player characters have the spotlight. However, in this case, you'll also need to gloss over some pretty complex interactions that happen when characters run a ship of, say, 300 people, most of which are enlisted men used to fuel the ship. That's when you strike out stuff like this:

Secret of  Sloop
The character commands a space sloop, with 20 crew plus officers. He has an average and (at this point) undetailed command chain that provides him with the check in Pool points with successful Leadership (I) check, usable for operating the sloop. Sloops are small enough to be usually commanded directly by the captain, who is aided in keeping the morale of the men up by some sort of second-in-command, usually a warrant officer. Requirements: Secret of Command

Making ships for Eero's space navy

A new ship or module of the same is created by creating an Effect (with some sort of financial Ability if you're buying the ship, command-chain manipulation if you're trying to get it out of your superior officers, etc.) and then listing what sort of Ability accesses it allows. The rules for actually building spaceships would be interesting, but a bit like rules for crafting magic items, they're a outside the scope of this current review. Rather, just assume that all ships come forth by SG fiat.

  • The ship module is an Effect, which is created normally.
  • All ships and ship components have scale, which acts a bit like equipment rules: when two scaled opponents meet in opposed conflict, the difference in scale modifies the active party's Ability check result (either up or down, depending on which way the scale goes). The modified result may not go below 1 or above 6, like with equipment. Everything that is not a space ship or module of the same is scale 0, but note that scale only affects conflicts where the full brunt of force of the larger opponent can be brought to bear.
  • The scale of the ship's hull determines the maximum scale of any other components, except when you sacrifice something else to make unlikely combinations. The scale can't start higher than the value of the Effect, although the Effect may, of course, come down later.
  • Activating an access of a component costs the scale in Pool points, of a denomination that depends on what the crew is doing - Vigor for lugging stuff around, Instinct for doing pretrained routines, Reason for repairing things.
  • Each access allows the ship to do some discrete function, whatever makes sense for the tech paradigm.
  • If the module has several different accesses, their costs may be distributed unequally between each other - so it's easier to use the short-range lasers than the long range photon torpedoes from the Weapons Console, or something like that. The gap between costs may not be more than the Effect value, however - if the Effect value goes down, the costs of access get redistributed by the SG.
  • The module can't have more accesses than it's current Effect value - if the Effect value goes down, some of the accesses go off-line.

A couple of examples of hardware:

Light Sloop - 3/R - scale 2
A maneuverable ship that suits well for medium-range scouting and planet-based adventuring. Usually no hyperdrive.
Piloting (I) - 1 - Moving around and other basic use.
Piloting (I) - 2 - Fighting with the ship's inbuilt weapons.
Logistics (R) - 3 - Supplying a landfall.

Astronavigation console 4/R - scale 1
A small, almost portable specialized computer for figuring out where you are.
Astronavigation (R) - 0 - Figuring out the closest stars, finding predefined landmarks, short range travel.
Astronavigation (R) - 1 - Mapping unknown space.
Astronavigation (R) - 1 - Figuring out where we are in known space.
Astronavigation (R) - 2 - Adapting the console for other computer stuff.

And, how you get those might be something like this:

Secret of Perch
The character has a successful career in Eero's space navy, so he gets some hardware he's responsible for. Make a suitable Ability check at the start of the mission to determine the quality of the Effect - the type depends on the skills and position of the character on the ship, while the scale depends on the scale of the ship. (The scale of the ship depends on what the mission is, although career officers usually stay on the same ship until assigned to a new one.) Requirements: Secret of Commission

Secret of Rank
The character has rank in Eero's space navy, which basicly means that he's guaranteed a perch on a ship of a certain scale. Each time you get this Secret, your rank goes up by one, and so does the scale of the ship you're serving on, unless something exceptional happens. Officers of a lower rank need to do what the higher rank says, except when they're in different branches of the command chain, in which case each step of distance (= how many rank steps you need to go up from the higher-up to find their first common superior) deducts one rank difference. Requirements: Secret of Commission

Typical events for Eero's space navy

Destroying hardware: ships and their individual components are Effects, and are thus destroyed like Effects. Most of the time the SG should allow characters to take the Harm, though, as a kind of symbolic concession to cinematic logic. If somebody wants to take it himself when his ship is shot, who am I to argue, after all? Or, make up some more crunch to handle that part.

Removing access: the obvious move when making a space ship is to drop the cost of access for an individual access method really low by hiking up the cost of other accesses it might have. This works just fine until the opponent somehow temporarily jams the given access, causes a number of penalty dice with descriptive tactics ("we stay out of range of their lasers" or whatever) or does other stuff like that. Furthermore, why care about the access cost? If you've planned your command chain correctly, you'll have more than enough Pool from the crew (in the short run, at least) to pay for access - you can't take those points with you, so to say, so you might as well spend them for what they're intended for.

Loaning out hardware: characters can, and should, loan out and help out each other with their hardware. Whether a character can support another in accessing some specific piece depends on the fictional constraints and stuff - likewise, individual accesses can support each other sometimes, while sometimes they can't. For example, if the ship is a highly computerized piece that runs all weapons stuff to the weaponeer's console (and maybe the captain's), then another character with tactical training might not be able to help simply because they ship's programming not been designed for dual access. Likewise, the guy who's piloting the ship and the guy who is shooting the guns might or might not be able to support each other in the conflict against the other ship's crew, depending on how they describe their actions.


It's pretty obvious that this is not complete, and not even balanced. But that's what you get for improvising, and I won't touch this further without confirmation that we're on the right track. Or wrong track, for that matter. Now I'll need to go get some dinner...
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Simon JB

Wow, this feels like a candy store. Do I go for chocolate or ice cream... ,-)

Eero, your idea is brilliant but a bit complex for my needs in this case. It feels perfect for a group with several characters spread through the ship, but right now we're setting up for a solo campaign (which of course I haven't told you yet) where the focus on pool economy feels slightly off track. Like you said, I think it's a good representation of military SF in literature where it's possible to go behind the scenes into the cogs and wheels of the machinery. Here our needs are more cinematic.

Now that I've been thinking about it a bit more I think the ships-as-characters way i the right one for this campaign. It would be like a troupe style play (something we were by the way already considering for this) where the player can switch between playing the human character commanding the ship and playing the ship with the commander as a supporting character. Yup, that feels just right for this scenario.

Comes the questions about crunch for ships.

Let's go with Harald's pools, Hull, Drives and Sensors, for the time being, but let's make Sensors be Systems to include computers and stuff.

The defensive abilities are good in principle, but could use some hotter names. Hmm, I'll have to think about that...

Harald's secrets are good too. In practice we're going to have a lot of SGCs in all functions but Command, so I guess we'll name the most important bridge officers and give them their skill levels.

By the way, about character abilities we're going with using proffessions rather than skills as far as we can: Naval Commander (R), Engineer (R), Pilot (I), Mechanic (V), Marine (V), Infantry (V) and so on.

I'm not sure how to do with scale. I guess it's best if difference in scale adjusts success level, like Eero suggests, rather than giving bonus dice or something. But aren't I right that smaller scale should work as a positive when using Evasion and Manouvering and the like?

And what about armaments? Should they be equipment, abilities or secrets? And what about fighter escorts for bigger ships?

Whaaa! So much to decide! I appreciate all the help you can give me here!

Oh, one last thing! I think keys for ships would be lovely. Dramatic keys come naturally, like Serenity breaking down and Millennium Falcons hyperdrive failing, but I'm sure you could squeeze in a motivational key as well in there... ,-)

Eero Tuovinen

Such a shame. I'll obviously have the play the Honor Harrington campaign myself, now that I have the basis of a rules-set for it.

Quote from: Simon JB on September 16, 2008, 01:32:48 PM
Now that I've been thinking about it a bit more I think the ships-as-characters way i the right one for this campaign. It would be like a troupe style play (something we were by the way already considering for this) where the player can switch between playing the human character commanding the ship and playing the ship with the commander as a supporting character. Yup, that feels just right for this scenario.

This works. Speaking for myself, I'd handle this as an extended version of the Secret of Companion (or whatsitsname, can't remember). Like so:

Secret of Ship
The character has gained possession of a ship and a crew, which act as an independent companion. Usually the ship does what the character tells it to, but the SG can ask for Leadership checks to convince the crew of tasks that fall outside their normal duties. The ship is statted by the Story Guide based on the fiction to begin with; companions do not have Keys (or their Keys are in hibernation as long as they're companions), except for the Key of the Companion.

(The fact that any size of ship only requires one Advance is balanced by the fact that others can take the ship away from you or use it against you in different ways whether it be big or small. Additionally, different sizes of ship are good for different things.)

Let's go with Harald's pools, Hull, Drives and Sensors, for the time being, but let's make Sensors be Systems to include computers and stuff.

Hull reflects not just strength of the hull, but also the size of the ship - and therefore, how much of anything and everything you can have stocked in there.
Drives could be renamed Energy, to reflect the other needs for power generation a ship might have apart from pushing it around.

I'm not sure how to do with scale. I guess it's best if difference in scale adjusts success level, like Eero suggests, rather than giving bonus dice or something. But aren't I right that smaller scale should work as a positive when using Evasion and Manouvering and the like?

As you already have Pools to reflect the size of the ship, you can just go like this:

Secret of Big-ass Cannon
This ship has one of those large plasma generator cannons that can only be fitted on the large warships. When fired by the weapons officer, it acts as +3 rated equipment. Cost: 4 Energy per shot

Now any ship with Energy Pool under 4 can't have a plasma generator, which solves the problem tidily. A larger ship will just have larger Pools, to allow ever more off-scale effects.

As for smaller and larger scale (if somebody wants to use the scale rules I suggested), the situation would depend on the details. But when both parties are working with their strengths and doing what the ships in question are supposed to be doing, then scale shouldn't be a factor at all. So when a small and quick ship is trying to escape, and the large one is trying to shoot it, you can just make Ability checks normally.

And what about armaments? Should they be equipment, abilities or secrets? And what about fighter escorts for bigger ships?

Whaaa! So much to decide! I appreciate all the help you can give me here!

The basic method in this sort of madness is to look at what is actually being done in play, and go from there. You can get by perfectly well with a surprisingly minimalistic set of stuff, as long as you know how you're approacing the ship-to-ship thing in general.

For example, you could handle fighter escorts as simple Abilities:

Fighter Wing (H)
The ship has a bay of smaller craft for interception and scouting purposes. They're fragile in battle, but deadly at close ranges, making them perfect against unarmed targets or defensive intercept. They're agile enough to catch enemy missiles in flight, too.

If the fighter thing seems especially cool and useful, you can make it prestigious by requiring a Secret:

Secret of Fighter Wing (H)
The ship has a bay of fighter planes and pilot crews enough for them all. The ship has the Fighter Wing (H) Ability at Mediocre (0), which may be further improved.

If you want to make the fighter thing special, feel free to pile on extra crunch:

Secret of Pilot Training
The ship has highly trained pilot aces. Roll a bonus die when using the Fighter Wing (H) Ability in a fight.

If it's a special focus of play, make some perverted special mechanical crunch for it:

Secret of Top Gun
The captain of this ship makes a Leadership check at the beginning of a session of play. Name this many fighter pilots who are members of the ship's crew - this is their story. The ship's player may at any point declare a short vignette that establishes something special about the life of one of these named pilots, making a Fighter Wing (H) check - the check result becomes an Effect for free. The Effect has to name the pilot in question, as each pilot may only have one Effect going on at once. If the Effect established for a given pilot is completely destroyed or exhausted at any point, that pilot dies. A pilot's Effect can be renewed by a new vignette, replacing the old Effect, but the new Effect has the normal cost.

And that's all there is to it!

More seriously, though, making a space campaign setting for Solar System is an ambitious undertaking. If I were in your shoes, I'd start really small - just focus on one simple idea at once and create a set of 2-4 Abilities, half a dozen Secrets and a couple of Keys for it. Hit your players with that and work with them to further tune the crunch to their characters. Then continue making up more crunch in bits between sessions. Don't try to have as much stuff as TSoY has all at once, you'll just go crazy doing it.

Actually, the Advanced Crunch section in the Solar System booklet is a pretty good example of what I mean. If I were to start a martial arts campaign today, I'd take that page and a half of martial arts rules from the booklet with me and work with the players to widen it into whatever we need. Preparing anything more would certainly be nice, but also a lot of work for a campaign that could, even with such an excellent game, fizzle horribly.

Oh, one last thing! I think keys for ships would be lovely. Dramatic keys come naturally, like Serenity breaking down and Millennium Falcons hyperdrive failing, but I'm sure you could squeeze in a motivational key as well in there... ,-)

I'd make these Keys for the character, not the ship. The ship itself can gain Advances by the character giving them to it:

Secret of Improvements
The character spends some time and effort at improving his ship. Remove this Secret and add one Advance to your ship, allotted the way you feel best. Difficult or unlikely improvements might require Engineering checks or rare technology to pull them off, though.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


I like "Energy" and "Systems" better than "Drives" and "Sensors". It makes the whole thing very trekky. "Put Energy into the Aft Shields!".

Simon JB

Damn, you're so good at this! You're just spitting out exactly what I need. Because this is exactly what I need.

Are there any good ideas about how to use squads of footsoldiers/cannon fodder with these rules? Usable of course both for the leader of a squad of marines and for the fighter wing leader.

The way I'm thinking of doing it is with the

Secret of Footsoldiers
The character has a squad of soldiers following her into combat. The squad has a pool equal to it's number of soldiers for the character to use in rolls where the soldiers are of assistance.

and the

Secret of Cannon Fodder
The character can use the squad pool to lower harm taken in combat, to a minimum of one harm. Requires Secret of Footsoldiers.

My thinking is that this puts emphasis on the leaders of groups of enemies being the actual antagonist in the conflict without bogging down drawn-out conflict with support rolls from a lot of individually unimportant extras. Any thoughts on this?

The fighter thing will probably be done exactly as you suggest, with the secret as a prerequisite for the ability.

The thing is that I haven't played enough with these rules to have good mechanical ideas on the fly, like you guys. When I do make up solutions on the fly they're usually crap. I'm much better at structuring things like this, nice and steady. .-)

I'm totally with you with not preparing too much crunch befor actual play has started. It's mostly that the ships feel like a special case, and I need to know the basics of how they work before we start. Like, how do ships' pools refresh? I'm guessing scenes with technicians climbing all over making repairs and tuning the systems and the like, but some specifics would be nice.

By the way, the Pools. If we go with the more abstract Energy (or Power?) and Systems, wouldn't Structure be appropriate for the hull part? Ruins the abbreviations, though... Maybe Structure, Power and Electronics. But I liked Systems...

I think two defensive abilities can be Evasion and Countermeasures, but I'm not sure about the name of the third. The meaning would be soaking up the hits, so maybe Damage Control would be appropriate? Or just Toughness? Resilience? Damage Capacity? Boring names, no?

Eero Tuovinen

Hey, those foot soldier Secrets are just fine. I especially like the second one; it's balanced and flavorful. I'd have the first Secret specify that the squad has soldiers equal to some Ability check - just to establish their number somehow. Alternatively, you could leave the number of soldiers up to the fiction but use the notion I had above about characters having to make Leadership checks to keep their soldiers in line when they are pushed. So if you have dozens of soldiers you'll either need some heavy-duty crunch to keep them in line, or some NCOs to command them for you.

Also, as a Story Guiding hint: if you're planning for an antagonist to have some crunch, it's always fun to design it solidly instead of just guestimating it - that way some player character can easily get their paws on that same crunch either before or after the confrontation.

For refreshing the ship's Pools, something like this probably:

Structure: The ship needs to be resupplied at some space port. The crew gets the freedom of the port.
Power: Reactor matter is replaced. This is costly, the ship's owner needs to cover it.
Electronics: The ship's computers are put on a reboot cycle. The ship is inert for 24 Terran hours.

Another option would be to simply have characters donate Pool to the ship, which would be beneficial in that you wouldn't need to waste time on refresh scenes for the ship. Like so:

Secret of Ship Maintenance
The character can give his Pools to the ship to keep it in working condition. The base rate is 2:1 if you just want to put some juice in without worrying about it, but it can be improved to 1:1 with a specific maintenance plan and a successful Ability check. Which Pools are translated into which Pools depends on the described maintenance - heavy hauling stuff is Vigor and so on and so forth.

The third Passive Ability is Craftsmanship, which describes how well the ship is built and maintained. Useful for withstanding misuse, random breakage and hull damage.

Hmm... this sort of tandem running of human characters and spaceship characters is a very complex thing game design -wise, even if it's relatively straightforward to plan for and execute in play. I'd approach this in the spirit of testing it out, playing loosely and with a willingness to back out of chosen procedures in favor of better ones when such are established. I could imagine that some parts prove insufficient, while some are too elaborate. I'll need to think more about this sort of thing at some point.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Damage Control is nice. Rename Systems as Operations, then you have Structure, Power, Ops as pools.

Simon JB

The reason I didn't go for an ability roll with the footsoldiers is that I feel the pool would need to be a bit bigger than that. Currently I'm only using it for antagonists (haven't played with  it yet, though, just prepared the SGCs) and I feel their single pool should about double from having a large group around them. Of course, it might be written to work the way you suggest (I think that's best for PCs), with me just smudging over the details about NCOs and stuff for SGC, giving them a pool I feel is right.

What you say about preparing being good as a beginner is a good point you make in the booklet and that I learned the hard way from beginning with Tsoy proper the day I got my hands on the new Solar. Hence this thread! .D

Don't you think it would be more Solar to have the refreshment scenes depend on interacting characters? Such as having a scene between two named characters that involve some sort of repair work? In my group we're quite happy about the players inventing new secondary characters on the fly and playing them for a scene. Very Sci-Fi series that, having a dialogue between two earlier unseen technicians going about their work with soldiers running all around them. Would be a lot of fun, I think. Of course one of the characters can be a PC, if that is appropriate in the situation. Such as the commander trying to get the engineer to crank out some solution to the power problem.

Donating pool would of course be a viable secondary option.

I think the pools will be Structure, Power and Electronics for now. Operations is nice, but sounds like it could encompass both weapon systems and flying.

So, abilities I'm looking at right now would be:

  • Damage Control/Damage Capacity/Integrity/Toughness
  • Weapon Systems
  • Fighter Wing

  • Evasion
  • Speed
  • Maneuvers

  • Countermeasures
  • Sensors
  • Jamming

Any additions? Revisions? Renditions?

Oh, and another important thing! I'd like to wikify this eventually, and perhaps put up some of our setting material and stuff as well. Where should I put it? Is RandomWiki still the sith? Is The Forge going to grow a wiki anytime soon? Is Arkenstone? I could make a space somewhere, but it'd be better to have one place for all, wouldn't it?

Eero Tuovinen

I recommend doing the NPC with high pools from soldiers in one of two ways:

  • Just give the NPC a high Pool and explain it as coming from his soldier supporters. Don't build complexity into where it will not be supported.
  • Build real crunch that can be used by the players, too.

In this case, the reason I recommend capping the Pool is that the Secret gets unbalanced otherwise. Requiring an Ability check requires an Ability investment, which helps balance it. If you want more soldiers, pile on more Secrets:

Secret of the Commander
Whenever the character is commanding extras with Leadership, double the number of extras affected for the purposes of any of those Leadership Secrets in this thread. Cost: 1 Vigor per Leadership check

Or build a hard limit into the Secret and make it cumulative:

Secret of the Squad
The character has five extras in his squad. Get this Secret several times if you want more.

Secret of the Company
The character has something like a hundred men with him, more than enough for most situations. If a situation is just an issue of piling enough men on a problem, the opponent doesn't necessarily even have the leverage for conflict - the company of soldiers just automatically wins if you try to face them head on. Requirements: Secret of the Squad x3

Even with this, you need to answer a difficult question concerning your local crunch landscape: is it a problem if characters can temporarily access limitless Pool in certain fictional situations? If it is, you need to put in some limits to this "1 soldier = 1 Pool" thing. Don't break the crunch related to that by allowing unlimited Pool from a big army if you don't want the resulting consequences.

For the refreshment scenes, the ones I suggested include conditions that allow for social situations - nights at port for the crew and that sort of thing. You're of course right in that it's not as social as the default refreshments, but then I'm not that certain if a ship needs to get those. It's a ship, not a character, and certainly not a protagonist, however character-like its statistics are. Perhaps doing refreshment scenes that are all about how the ship can't be out haring in space will help shift attention to the characters on the ship for a scene or two, forcing the captain of the ship to work with his own assets for a change.

As for wikies, I have big liking for both Random and Clinton's own tsoy-wiki at tsoy.crngames.com. I recommend either of those for putting up your stuff in a refined form. Perhaps Clinton's wiki is slightly more logical, as it's dedicated to TSoY and it wouldn't hurt for somebody to get brave and put up their stuff.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


Actually, I like that Operations can be flying and weapons, too. Allows for Secret of Operations Override (base flying/fighting on ops control) and other nice stuff. But it's your game (-:

Simon JB

Thanks for all the input, again, both of you!

I think I'll go with the soldier pool based on abilitiy roll, and break the 1 pool=1 soldier thing, which was never necessary from the beginning. So the fiction will decide the number of soldiers, if an exact number is needed at all since bandits and stuff will mostly just be "a bunch", and the leadership roll will determine how good use the commander can put his soldiers to.

A balance thing: since this is just like a regular effect, is the logic about it that having taken a secret about it relieves you of the pool cost to establish the effect? And would your Secret of the Commander still be balanced, if it actually doubled the effect at the cost of one pool? Should it be two pool? I'd very much like to use it.

As you can probably tell, in this case I'd prefer to build real crunch for the SGCs, rather than just calling numbers.

Harald, I think I'll go for Electronics for now. You would just use Secret of Auxiliary Systems and the like to use Electronics pool for flying and shooting and the other nice stuff you suggest.

About the wikiness, don't you think it would be better to put new stuff like this somewhere under a Solar System heading? Looking forward, I think that's what future players that start from the Arkenstone publications are going to look for, either they play in Near or not. In that perspective I think Random might be the best, under a new Solar heading. What do you think?

Eero Tuovinen

A Secret that allows you to effectively have a free Effect is pretty well balanced, I think. Like so:

Secret of Equipment (a thing)
The character has an useful tool. You can create and preserve one free Effect related to it.

So it's just the same thing in different words:

Secret of Squad
The character has a bunch of men who do what he tells them to. One Effect related to them (probably created with Leadership (I)) is free to create and preserve.

Note that a character could easily take this Secret several times to get multiple free Effects. And, to make it more flexible:

Secret of the Commander
The character can use men under his command more effectively. When ordering his men around, the character can choose to use a related Effect instead of his own Ability check in conflict. In addition, when he has the time to maintain his troop, he can reroll a related Effect with a Leadership (I) check for free: make a Leadership (I) check, burn the original Effect value for bonus dice, and the result becomes the new Effect value.

As for the wiki thing, I haven't really thought of it that much. I don't personally mind putting stuff up in Clinton's wiki as long as he doesn't mind - he can always change its name to "Solar System wiki" if that becomes an issue. But a new page at Random is fine with me, too. Basically I think that whoever wants to present material or act as a nexus for gathering material together should choose the media he's comfortable with.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.