Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Psi Wars: Spaceships Playtest - Starhawk vs Typhoon

Starfighter Zero by MeckanicalMind

To understand the problems and strengths of GURPS Spaceships when it comes to handling a swooping spaceship space opera, we need to actually try the game out! I find that if I make assumptions or jump to conclusions based simply on reading the mechanics, I am often wrong, so let's actually look at how the game plays out before rewriting it.  Spaceships 4 has two interesting "deep space fighters," the Typhoon-class fighter (page 11), which seems to resemble the Star Wars Tie-Fighter, and the Starhawk-class fighter (page 12), which seems to resemble the Star Wars X-wing.  For our first run, let's take Starfighter Ace Tobin Starlaw, and send him up against two Typhoon-class Fighters on patrol, and see what happens.

Our Characters

I've already introduced you to Tobin Starlaw.  The pertinent statistics for him are these:
  • Pilot(Starship)-18
  • Gunnery (Beams)-16
  • Artillery (Guided Missile)-16
  • Lucky
  • Combat Reflexes
  • Daredevil
  • Higher Purpose (Dogfighter)
He'll be flying a Starhawk, assisted by TB-7, his repair-bot.

Our enemies will two nameless mook pilots with all pertinent skills at 12, in two Typhoon-class fighters.  Should be pretty a pretty easy fight for Tobin.

Preliminary

We will be using the Standard distances with the 20-second round.  While it's too early to start changing things around, I know we'll want Cockpit Multitasking and Airplane-style Dogfighting (both SS4 page 33) because that's the heart of the genre. 

Before a fight begins, we must declare what our characters are already doing.  In this case, all patrols are Holding Course.  Tobin has his force screens already powered, and all ships have 1 engine powered for +1 acceleration bonus.

Tobin gets to go first, because he's quicker than the mook pilots (Basic Speed 6).  The Encounter starts at Long range (neutral distance)


Turn 1

Tobin
Tobin chooses to Close on the Typhoon fighters in formation. He also chooses to attack, so he has a total of -1 to both rolls. His robot, TB-7, is going to Improve Power and supplies power to everything.

Tobin activates all 4 engines and spends 40 MPS for +4 to acceleration (He has 410 remaining).  He makes a pilot roll with his skill of 18, +4 from acceleration, -1 from multi-tasking, +2 from his handling and +1 higher purpose, giving him a grand total effective Pilot of 24. The Typhoon formation has skill 12 +1 from acceleration +2 from Handling for 15. Tobin rolls an 8, the Typhoon pilot rolls an 8. Tobin has a margin of victory of 9. Tobin chooses for an attack vector. He's currently at Short range (-8).

He fires all 4 of his lasers: He has skill 16, +4 from the Typhoon's size modifier, -8 from Short Range, his weapons are fixed for +2, the Typhoon has 2 ECM systems for a -2 (The Starhawk has a tactical array), and he's firing enough shots for a +1 and he has higher purpose (dogfighter). 10 MJ lasers can fire S/L, so we'll attack at full damage and it deals 4d(5) damage. With effective skill 13, he rolls an 12 and hits twice.

The Typhoon pilot has a skill of 12, a handling of +2, and two ECM systems, giving him a total dodge of 10. He rolls an 8 and barely evades both shots!

Note: If Tobin had hit, he would have inflicted an average of 14(5) damage against either front hardened DR of (effectively) 5 or a side hardenedDR of (effectively) 3. Either would have damaged whatever system it hit. If it had hit with both shots, the Typhoon could have been in serious trouble.

Typhoons
The Typhoons takes their turn. They now start at Long range, just as Tobin did. They choose to close. Their skill is 12, they activate all four engines and spend 40 MPS for +4 to maneuver (410 MPS remaining). They have -1 from multi-tasking (they're going to fire), +2 from handling for a total of 17 vs Tobin's 23. They roll 14, he rolls 13, he wins the contest. They are unable to close to Short.
They both fire: Two shots each with a 3MJ laser, which does 3d damage and is halved at L range. They have skill 12 vs SM +5, Range -12, +0 for turret(?), and -1 for ECM, giving them a skill of 6 each. Unsurprisingly, neither hits.

If they had, they would have dealt an average of 5(5) damage vs the Starhawk, which has DR 20 shields (reduced to 4) and hardened DR 5 (reduced to 3), so the Starhawk would have taken no damage, nor would its shields have been reduced.

Turn 2

Tobin
Tobin chooses to Close on the Typhoon fighters in formation. He also chooses to attack with his missile, so he has a total of -1 to both rolls.

Tobin activates all 4 engines and spends 40 MPS for +4 to maneuver (He has 370 remaining), -1 from multi-tasking, +2 from his handling and +1 from higher purpose, giving him a grand total effective Pilot of 24. The Typhoon formation has skill 12+4 maneuver +2 from Handling for 18. Tobin rolls an 8, the Typhoon pilot rolls an 11. Success by 9! Tobin chooses for an attack vector (he could almost choose to be Advantaged). He's currently Short.
He fires one missile. He is skill 16+4 SM -6 speed +3 Acc -2 ECM, +1 higher purpose or skill 16. He'll easily hit with a lucky roll of 7.

The Typhoon pilot has a skill of 12, a handling of +2, and two ECM systems, giving him a total dodge of 10. He rolls an 11 is hit! He takes 1000 damage and is obliterated.

Note: Missiles do a ridiculous amount of damage Rules As Written.

Typhoon
The remaining suicidal Typhoon take its turn. It chooses to make a dedicated close, because this is the only shot it has left. With skill 12, it activates all four engines and spends 40 MPS for +4 to maneuver (410 MPS remaining). It has -1 from multi-tasking (it's going to fire), +2 from handling and 3 dedicated for a total of 20 vs Tobin's 23. He rolls 6 (critical success!) and Tobin rolls 10, so the Typhoon wins the contest. Critical success results are not clear, but I'm going to allow them to close to Short and be Advantaged. It faces Tobin's Central hull.

It fires both lasers: Two shots each with a 3MJ laser, which does 3d damage. He has skill 12 vs SM +5, Range -8, +0 for turret(?), and -1 for ECM, giving jo, a skill of 10. The Typhoon rolls a 10 precisely, hitting with one shot. Tobin has skill 18 + combat reflexes +2 handling +1 ecm for dodge 13. He rolls a 10 and dodges. If he hadn't, he'd have taken 10(5) damage, which would have inflicted an average of 3 damage, enough to damage one system.

Turn 3

Tobin
Tobin chooses to Close on the remaining Typhoon fighter. He also chooses to attack with all four lasers, so he has a total of -1 to both rolls. Once again, his robot powers him up fully.

Tobin activates all 4 engines and spends 40 MPS for +4 to maneuver (He has 330 remaining), -1 from multi-tasking, +2 from his handling, giving him a grand total effective Pilot of 23. The Typhoon formation has skill 12+4 maneuver +2 from Handling and +1 for higher purpose for 19. Tobin rolls an 10, the Typhoon pilot rolls an 13. Success by 8! Tobin chooses for an attack vector. He's currently at range: Short.

He fires all 4 of his lasers: SM is +4. Range is -8. Fixed mount is +2, higher purpose +1. The Typhoon's ECM is -2. Multiple shots fires is +1. 10 MJ lasers can fire S/L, so it can hit just fine, and it deals 4d(5) damage. With effective skill 13, he rolls an 11 and hits thrice.

The Typhoon pilot cannot dodge. It is hit 3 times on the front. The shots deal 16, 10 and 14 damage. The Typhoon has an effective DR of 5 on the front, so takes 11, 5 and 9 damage. He rolls 4, 5 and 6 for hit location, destroying one gun, disabling the second, and destroying the tactical array. The Typhoon is badly damaged but still functional.

The Typhoon pilot has no hope of killing Tobin now. It makes an evasive maneuver.  This automatically puts him at Long range and removes Tobin from being engaged (which Tobin wasn't)

Note: That's because Engagement is pointless.  Your opponent can shake you off with a single Evasive maneuver, and remaining close just means your opponent gets a free shot from closer range.  Swooping in with an attack vector and then swooping back out is generally more effective, and easier besides.

Turn 4

Tobin
Tobin chooses to Close on the Typhoon fighter. He also chooses to attack with all four lasers, so he has a total of -1 to both rolls. Once again, his robot powers him up.

Tobin activates all 4 engines and spends 40 MPS for +4 to maneuver (He has 290 remaining), blah blah blah giving him a grand total effective Pilot of 24. The Typhoon formation has skill 12+blah blah for 22. Tobin rolls an 16, the Typhoon pilot rolls an 9. Tobin is unable to close!

He takes his shot anyway: He fires all 4 of his lasers: SM is +4. Range is -12. Fixed mount is +2. The Typhoon's ECM is -2. Multiple shots fires is +1. Higher Purpose +1. 10 MJ lasers can fire S/L, so it can hit just fine, and it deals 4d(5) damage. With effective skill 9, he rolls an 10 and misses.

Typhoon
The Typhoon attempts a retreat. It's not clear how this works. It seems that next turn he just does unless Tobin succeeds at his closing roll... which he almost certainly will.

Turn 5

Tobin
Blah blah Tobin closing.

Tobin activates all 4 engines and spends 40 MPS for +4 to maneuver (He has 250 remaining), blah blah effective Pilot of 23. The Typhoon blah blah skill 18. Tobin rolls an 13, the Typhoon pilot rolls an 12. Tobin pulls in to Short

He takes his shot: He fires all 4 of his lasers: blah blah effective skill 12, he rolls an 13 and misses.
The Typhoon attempts a retreat. He succeeds, though Tobin follows, and this is going to go on forever!

Thoughts

What a tedious fight.  I would hope my eventual system is more interesting than this.  A few things I've noticed, not just from this fight but in general.  First, most people expect to see "furballs," where the fighters get stuck in and swirl around each other.  That doesn't happen here.  Instead, a successful pilot is able to swoop in, get a shot in, and then get out before the other pilot can react (unless they wait, which is an option).  You can go for engagement, which keeps you at close range, but then your opponent gets to shoot at you from close range "for free," and you've given up being Advantaged.  Also, you're sufficiently fast that you have +10 typically.  Not something that will often happen between fighters.

Missiles are godly.  If I really wanted to end that interminable fight, I'd just have Tobin launch another missile.  Range doesn't matter (he can fire as well from L as from S), he will hit, and then the Typhoon will die.  So what's the point of even having blasters if your missile does literally a thousand points of damage?

I also don't see a lot of variety here, perhaps because there are too few actors, but we're literally on an infinite plane, rolling the dice over and over again until the inevitable happens.  We need to spice that up.  In a more Star-Trekish game, we'd be playing around more with tactics and sensors and cloaking or something, but here, our focus should be on Pilot and Gunner, but there's not enough emphasis on those, not enough potential variety.  We just do the same thing over and over again.

We need to make it sing.  Ulzgoroth is right: This is not the system for space fighters.  Not as written.


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