Friday, December 28, 2018

Elite Armor II: Imperial Knight Armor

Over on my Patreon, I did a poll some time ago about the elements of the Emperor’s mystical conspiracy, those aspects of the Empire that are beyond the control of generals and bureaucrats, that answer directly to him and know of his command over Dark Communion. One such element is the Imperial Knight, a small cadre of elite psychics who have studied at the feet of the Emperor himself and deploy their psychic might in a dark mirror of the Maradon Space Knight or, more accurately, as a dark mirror to the Templars of Communion.

In Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, we had a player who wanted to be an imperial knight (even before Imperial Knights were a thing), and wanted to know what sort of armor they would have. I gave him some hacked together version of what I had designed for Maradon Space Knights, but it required a few different features, such as a unique material (diamondoid laminate, in this case). When I rebuilt the materials, he expressed sadness that I had removed their unique material (replacing it with Carbide Laminate, which is “common” now for the soldiers of the Empire). What this says to me is that his armor mattered to him. And why shouldn’t it? An Imperial Knight is as defined by his armor as a Maradon space knight is.

So, if I’m going to give Maradon space knights cool armor options, should I not give the same to Imperial Knights? More, this is an opportunity to show off some of the other options made available to the Cult of the Emperor, what secret technologies he uses to empower his most prized minions.

Imperial Knights are an order of magnitude rarer than Maradon Space Knights, but where most space knights play at war with their dueling while warrior over-priced fashion-original armor, the Imperial Knights are titans of psychic power with access to Dark Communion and thus make up for quantity with quality. So while this armor is unlikely to see much use throughout the Empire, those who wear it are such key NPCs, or the armor is sufficiently interesting to PCs, that its definitely worth diving into at great length.

Imperial Knight armor is elite armor. It may not be purchased with money, only as signature gear.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Elite Armor I: Maradon Space Knight Armor

While working on armor, I came to a few realizations.  First, increasingly, armor is the signature of a few factions, especially the Maradonian space knights.  One thing I've noticed my readers really enjoy is the idea of a fully armored space knight, rather than the lightly-clad space samurai of Star Wars.  I don't think they mind the latter so much as see the former as an element that stands out.  As such, I want to really bring an emphasis to that armor.

Psi-Wars feels like fantasy, but isn't.  From this, certain forms of Space Opera gain a lot of interesting tension, so I wanted the armor of the setting to merge tropes of each.  On the one hand, they should be obviously "plate armor," perhaps with relic suits worn by ancestors and maybe with magic psychic powers embedded into them.  But at the same time, if you look through the designs of armor in Star Wars: the Old Republic, or even just Star Wars itself, you find glowing buttons and tubes and wires.  What does all of that do?  I want to evoke a feel of the space marine who lovingly attends his armor, runs diagnostics over the whole thing before closing it about him with an atmospheric hiss and a click, and then ignites his force sword with a crack and prepares for battle.

All of this means that I need to give Space Knight Armor additional attention and, perhaps, ways of differentiating them.  Ideally, given its nature, each suit would be perfectly unique, as is true of all forms of Low-Tech armor from which it draws its inspiration, but asking your players to design their own suits of armor is a bridge too far, so I offer a few models and a few modification options below.

All forms of Elite Armor, including Space Knight armor, are sufficiently unique that one cannot buy them; they must be purchased as Signature Gear.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Psi-Wars Armor

This took longer than I thought.  Thank you for your patience!

This should be an all-inclusive list of all generic armor, readily market-available, in the Psi-Wars setting. If more arises, I’ll add to it. Most of the armor is presented as generic; the lack of inclusion of various corporations (especially Colt and Han & Kord) does not mean they do not produce armor, rather that the armor they produce is no different from the armor noted below.

There will be additional armor, but not included here.  This will represent "rare" and exclusive armor, typically taken as signature gear rather than purchased off the market.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Personal Tech Overview of Humanity

I previously said I was going to “start” with the Maradonian military, but that’s not entirely right. What I should start with is an overview, as per the general setting design principles I laid out in this post here (and here). The whole reason I started moving in this direction is that I can’t really do anything, such as run a decent playtest, until I have a good sense of what everything looks like, and there’s a few ways you can do that: you can start from the bottom up (“I want to use Starhawks and Typhoons!”) or you can start from the top and work your way down, which is generally how I prefer to work with this, because it’s easier to “start simple” and build your complexity from there. This means we should work on a quick summary of what all the military forces of Psi-Wars look like.

This will do a few things for us. First, it gives us a “minimum viable product.” If I design the Maradonian forces, but fail to build anything else, you’ve got 1/4th of a setting, but if I give you an overview and do nothing else, you’ve at least got insights into how you can flesh out the entire setting. Second, by building an overview, we can get a sense of what general elements the setting has in abundance, and what it might lack; that is, we can make sure that military forces don’t look too similar. It helps us ensure that each faction has a well-defined niche. Finally, it makes the final design process easier, because we’ve already laid out the blueprints.

I know I said “all” the military forces, but naturally, we’re focusing on humanity because they are the core “default” of the setting. A good space opera has nice contrasts between the familiar and the exotic, and humanity and its grounding in “Star Wars” is familiar. We know the Rebel Alliance vs the Empire, we have little trouble explaining it; to be sure, I’ve done some different things, but it should still feel familiar. Aliens, by contrast, should contrast with the base we build out of the “familiar” human setting elements, so that when you transition to those parts of the setting, they feel as exotic as they should. Thus, we will not worry about them yet, and will handle them in due course.

This will be a very high level perspective. We’ll briefly touch on how I see each faction approaching their military, what sorts of niches that I see them filling, and then hit on the archetypes I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, creating a table so we can see where we have “too much” of a particular element, and where we might need more.

A further note: I had intended this to cover spaceships, robot and vehicles too, but something happened: it got very long and, also, I noticed some of my readers already discussing ground doctrines and equipment, so I thought it might be better to strike while the iron was hot and just release this portion and move on to personal equipment and come back and deal with robots, vehicles and spaceships once that was done.  I'll have a general overview of space combat soon enough as well.

Also, I’m diving into corporations and I want to credit a couple of people for names: GURB, for introducing quite a few corporate names, and Alan Chambers, for suggesting Starlink Telecom.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Ground Based Military Doctrines

Military personal gear and ground vehicles are ultimately tied to soldiers and military forces. Every weapon manufactured and every tank built are designed to fit the military doctrine of the customer that purchases them. Thus, to understand what military gear we have, we need to understand how a force fights. For the purposes of this post, we want to get a sense of how a military force fights “on the ground,” with infantry, human(ish) scale combat robots, and ground vehicles, so we can get a sense of what sort of equipment they might manufacture to fit their needs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Thoughts on Military Doctrines

Before we can discuss the details of a military technological framework, we should try to understand the logic behind why they use the weapons and vehicles that they use.  This means understanding how a particular military force fights, how it combines its various elements into a cohesive whole.  It also means understanding something about the culture behind the army, why they fight, and what their flaws are.

I did some work on Imperial military doctrines, or typical Rebel tactics, and these proved quite popular, if the views are to be believed, so I thought I'd revisit some of the thought process behind how I came up with those, and some of the thoughts that I have when creating my own military forces, both so that I can clarify my own thoughts but also, more importantly, to offer you some inspiration if you're creating your own military force.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Building the Psi-Wars Technological Frameworks

“I understand why you’re revisiting this technological stuff, I just miss working on the setting” - Maverick (I think; and paraphrased, because it was ages ago, which illustrates how much of a problem it is)

“I think its time for a new playtest.” – The Secret Council, ominously

I am unhappy. I had wanted to round out a final playtest and a new version of the Dreadnought, but in the latter case, it felt redundant based on what I knew was coming up, and the former felt unfinishable, because I would have to use “Generic everything.” In fact, the reason I came up with the Generic Fleet was to do a playtest, but even as I found myself sitting down to write it, the words wouldn’t come, and I think I know why: it’s because I’m unhappy. I am unhappy because Maverick is right, and that sort of thing is way more fun. I am unhappy because my mind swims with alternate races and lost houses and Alexian secrets. I am unhappy because I know you want to see those things and I watch interest dwindle on my discord and my patreon.

It is very important that a writer be happy. Sure, he can be stressed, push to his limits and freaking out, but he should be enjoying what he’s doing, or the words will stop flowing. Creativity requires an element of play, as they are deeply bound to one another! If it feels like homework, then, perhaps you shouldn’t do it! Yes, eventually you need to get it done, but pain (and boredom, etc) are indicators of a problem, and perhaps we can solve that problem.

There’s a reason I’ve done Iteration 7 the way I have, and it boils down to dissatisfaction with GURPS Spaceships as a catchall for vehicles. We don’t have Vehicles 4e, and I must say, this journey has showed me a lot, and provided a great deal of useful assets I need to move forward with this, and now that we have them, let’s move forward, shall we?

I want to make December my “Framework” month, not in the bland “Let’s talk about technology in an abstract way” but concrete material that you, as a Psi-Wars player, can use, and I want it to reflect the setting, so we’ll kill two birds with one stone: we’ll build a gear catalog and develop our setting at the same time! Though let’s be honest, this will take more than a month, but let’s see where this takes us!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Let's talk Ranges: Remote Combat and the Casaba Howitzer

Something hitting from Remote range strikes me as best used as a plot device. - Brett Tamahori
First, let me apologize for my lack of posts lately.  My wife's having a rough pregnancy which means I sometimes need to step in, and this is happening more and more lately, so I get in posts when I can.  I'm almost finished with the rules, and I have one last "playtest" I'd like to post and then I'll move onto something much more fun, I promise. In the very least, I've been looking forward to it.  In the meantime, I wanted to take a moment to post something I've really wanted to since I saw a discussion on my discord channel, so if you'll humor me, I'd like to jump in and tackle it.

I feel like the ranges offered in GURPS Action and GURPS Dogfighting and my own system are pretty abstract.  What is Remote range anyway? For that matter, what is "Extreme" when it comes to space combat?  And what sort of ranges should you allow in your games?  As a bonus, I wanted to talk briefly about the "Casaba Howitzer" that one poster brought up, and whether it "breaks" Psi-Wars.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Psionic Powers in Dogfighting Action!

"The Force guides my controls!"

―Delta-7 pilot

Star Wars often discusses the fact that Jedi made amazing pilots, and during the Clone Wars, they even employed different starfighters than the rest, precisely because of the advantages their force sensitivity gave them. In principle, Psi-Wars should be the same, and we expect Templars and Space Knights to be exceptional pilots. However, while Star Wars offers nebulous reasons for Jedi excellence as pilots (“The force guides them,”) in an RPG, we need more concrete reasons for that excellence. Hence, we need to discuss how psychic powers and offer advantages to a pilot.

I wanted to move away from GURPS Spaceships Combat for a few reasons, but the big one is that it involved “incomprehensible distances.” That is, I certainly didn’t understand how to handle the scale of distances involved, and I notice that when I start talking about remote ranges, people get uncomfortable and talk about it causing problems even though it’s the shortest range of GURPS Space Combat, which highlights the problem. Worse, GURPS doesn’t really operate that well on those ranges. It can, of course, but most material out there assumes more terrestrial, rather than celestial, distances, because that’s the distances in which the average human character operates in.

This definitely applies to psionic powers. This was a topic I intended to visit at some point, and when I finally did, I immediately noticed that the change from Spaceship combat to GURPS Action chase rules immediately made a lot of psychic powers more relevant “for free” precisely because we reduced ranges to something that GURPS Psychic Powers could handle “out of the box.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Why Capital Ships: Space Artillery and Tactical Command (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday I dove into the basic theory of capital ships in my GURPS Action chase update. Today, I round it out with a look at truly long range combat, and gaining a tactical advantage on your opponent.

Remote Combat

Lando Calrissian: Yes, I said *closer*! Move as close as you can, and engage those Star Destroyers at point blank range!

Admiral Ackbar: At that close range we won't last long against those Star Destroyers!

Lando Calrissian: We'll last longer than we will against that Death Star! And we might just take a few of them with us!

--Return of the Jedi

GURPS Action’s Chase rules do not extend beyond “Extreme,” because we begin to struggle with horizons and ground clutter at some point. However, Dogfighting Action! includes two new ranges: Distant and Beyond Visual, which represent ranges made possibly by the extreme distances of air combat. I want to add two more: Remote and Beyond Remote.

Once we get into space combat, ranges begin to widen to an impossible degree. Orbital bombardment takes place from distances up to 100 miles away! In principle, one should be able to blast another target in space from such a distance. Of course, this is “point-blank” in GURPS Spaceships, and too extreme a distance begins to diminish the “in your face” visuals of Star Wars and Psi-Wars, but nonetheless, I think there is room for powerful artillery ships blasting one another from a phenomenal distance, or at least a seemingly phenomenal distance.

Every range band in the Action system is roughly five times as far as the previous band. Extreme is up to a mile, while Distant is up to 5 miles, and Beyond Visual is “beyond that.” If we follow the progression, Beyond Visual would end at up to 25 miles, and “Remote” would end at up to ~125 miles or -27 to -31.

We need to answer a few questions before we can introduce a new range band, as there are always degrees of distance between ourselves and every object in existence, but most such distances are not tactically relevant. We need to know if Remote is tactically relevant: can a ship at that distance coordinate others, can it attack, can it be attacked, and can people reach it on the time-scales of GURPS Action Chase sequences?

For coordination and attack, the answer is an easy yes. We can easily have communications and sensors devices with ranges at about 100 miles, which is roughly the range of Remote. We can also easily attack out to that distance with pretty much any blaster weapon of any reasonable size. In fact, it’s so easy to attack from 100 miles away that I’ve reduced the ranges of blasters. I’ve included the details in the new version of my Vehicles conversion. Suffice it to say, only Super-Heavy capital turrets and most super-weapons have this sort of range now, as opposed to even fighter-level cannons.

A greater problem with an attack are the accuracy penalties. For a capital ship firing an aimed blaster cannon at another capital ship from 100 miles away, we’re looking at an average crew skill of 12 + an SM of 13 + 5 from sensor lock and targeting computer and +9 from accuracy – 30 from range penalties, or 9, which is less than a 50% chance of hitting. We’ll need some ways to improve this, as well as some reasonable ways to defend from such a long-range attack.

The trickier question is if it can be attacked or if a ship can reach it on the GURPS Action time-scales. In principle, we can say a ship is unreachable (say, 10,000 miles away) but is freely able to shoot you. This does not create fun gameplay, naturally, as combat occurs on vast, strategic distances and over exceedingly short time-scales, similar to how an ICBM-based nuclear war would go. This is not what we want. So, can we reach a ship that’s about 100 miles away in a minute? Or, more accurately, can we go from between 125 and 26 miles away to between 25 and 5 miles away from a target within a minute at our chosen speeds?

Our target speeds are about 1000 mph for a fighter, 600 miles per hour for corvettes, and between 300 and 100 miles per hour for a capital ship, and an action turn takes one minute. In a single minute, a fighter can cover 15 miles, a corvette can cover 10 miles, and a capital ship can cover between 5 and one-and-a-half miles. Frankly, this already begins to cause problems at dogfighter distances because going from beyond visual (minimum of 5 miles away) to distant (minimum of 1 mile away) is beyond the possibility of slow capital ship. In the best case scenario, a fighter reach a target at 26 miles away in two minutes; 125 miles takes closer to 10 minutes. A corvette can reach a target 26 miles away in up to 3 minutes, while 125 miles away takes nearly 15 minutes. At 300 miles per hour, a capital ship will reach a target 26 miles away in ~5 minutes and 125 miles in nearly half an hour. It is not possible in any account to really interact with a remote target in exactly one minute, though it’s not so far away that it’s really beyond the chase rules: in most cases, you could hand wave things away and suggest that the target is reachable on a 5-minute scale rather than a 1-minute scale, or that you can reach the target, but you’ll suffer several attack attempts.

If we take all of this together, it suggests we should treat remote carefully if we’re going to use it at all. To be useful in combat, we might add an “aiming” action which represents something similar to using the Dead

All of this together suggests we should treat remote carefully, if we’re going to handle it at all. First, remote requires some sort of time-consuming “precision aiming” action where you carefully line up your shots, the same idea as Precision Aiming from GURPS High-Tech; we can grant a +4 to hit, but also a +2 to dodge, representing the fact that at such distances, even a slight evasive action can offer considerable defensive benefits, and also mimics the Telegraphic attack rules. This gives a capital ship a roll of 13 or less to hit a target, but improves another capital ship’s dodge from an average of a pointless 2 to a possible 4, while corvettes and fighters are effectively impossible at that range. Second, I would require a minimum of 100 mile range on weapons, comms and sensors to effectively operate at that range. Third, I would argue that a Remote vehicle cannot gain advantage on another target (you’re too far away to meaningfully outmaneuver your target at any speed). This helps reduce the lethality of the remote ship: you’re firing with a more limited number of your guns, your target is hard to hit, and your opponent can adjust his force screens so they face your direction. A generic battleship is only going to hit with two or three of this super-heavy cannons, and against a target with 10k force screens, he’ll fail to penetrate DR at all. You really need a super-weapon to operate at such a range, or you need to target a less well-defended vehicle. Fourth, when it comes to movement, we can treat moving from Remote to Beyond Visual as a two-shift move. This is a little cinematic, as it means that a fighter can move from remote to beyond visual in a single minute with a good roll, while corvettes will typically require two minutes, and capital ships will require a lot of rolling to successfully chase down their target, unless their target is static (which is possible). Finally, I would make this an optional rule: it’s an interesting scenario when dealing with orbital bombardment or when tackling a super weapon, and it’s a good place to park your carrier if you want it help coordinate your battle, but it’s probably more detail than necessary in any other cases.

Formation and Tactics

One important element of GURPS Spaceships is the ability of the commanding officer to exert his tactical acumen to grant his vessel a benefit over his opponent. The Officer template excels at Tactics, and thus we would expect them to be able to bring their excellence to bear against opponents here too.

The first and most obvious way in which an Officer can gain the strategic upperhand against his opponent is with the already existent foresight rules. I’ll talk more about Lucky Breaks later, but suffice it to say, Foresight can translate directly into a Lucky Break, in the same way that Serendipity can.

However, I’d like to make tactics more directly useful, moment by moment. I can simply borrow the tactics rules from GURPS Spaceships, but I want to revisit them and see if we can return to base principles and see whether or not they still fit. After all, the Chase rules don’t use tactics, nor does the Dogfighting rules. Why should we? What sort of benefits would they provide?

In reality, I do think you see tactics in chase scenes! Random mooks who simply point their vehicles at the enemy and drive as fast as they can tend to be less effective than, say, law enforcement officers who coordinate their various vehicles, from helicopters to a fleet of squad cars, to catch their opponent, or back them into a blockade. This feels like a form of tactics that might offer some sort of complimentary bonus to chase rolls.

When it comes to dogfights, we definitely see the use of tactics as well. A good example of this was the “Thatch Weave:” if a less agile fighter had a zero on its tail, it would “weave” with its wingman to bring the zero into the sights of its wingman. Larger capital ships would also maneuver with one another to maximize their firing arcs while minimizing their opponent’s firing arcs.

All of these examples of coordination have something in common: they involve coordination between multiple craft. GURPS Spaceships doesn’t require this, but it assumes teams of characters on one ship, while we’re going to see teams of characters on multiple ships, and thus requiring formations might be an interesting idea.

Formations are a concept also from GURPS Spaceships, but is semi-visible in the GURPS Chase rules in the concept of “chase groups” with leaders. We can call these formations. We can do a few more things with formations: consider that the job of many smaller capital ships are as “escorts,” we can allow a ship in formation to “block” another ship in formation. We can also allow an area jammer to protect everything within that formation. Finally, formations of two or more ships can engage in tactics.

GURPS Spaceships gives tactics the ability to apply a +1 or -1 to dodge, but this is often not useful to the very ships that will want to use tactics the most: Capital Ships, as they often have an abominable dodge. Instead, I suggest the following: in a formation of two more ships, a character within the formation may make a Tactical Coordination action against a single target (either a single vessel, or a single formation); if the target is a formation, that target may roll Tactics to resist in a Quick Contest. If successful, the formation may gain one of the following benefits

  • Defensive Tactics: Opponent either has -2 to hit the vessels of the formation, or the vessels of the formation gain +1 Dodge.

  • Defensive Tactics: Opponent either has -1 to dodge the attacks of the vessels of the formation, or the vessels of the formation gain+2 to hit the target vessel or formation.

  • Pursuit Tactics: +2 to chase rolls against the target for this turn

In practice, this allows capital ships to reduce their opponents’ barrages by a hit or two, which might mean the difference between life and death.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Action Vehicular Rules 1.1

Currently on my Patreon, if you're a Patron, you get a one week preview of the Action Vehicular Rules, the Space Opera update for the Action Chase rules into a full dog-fighting and space combat system.

If you're a patron, you can check it out here.  If you're not, come back next week, and it'll be available to you!  As always, I want to make a shout out to my patrons, and give them a big thank you.  I know it's been a quiet few months.

Why Capital Ships? New Rules for Dreadnoughts in GURPS Action Chase rules (Part 1 of 2)

My apologies for my absence.  Between illness and family, I've been busy, but also, the topic I had selected to tackle turned out to be exceptionally large, so large that I've had to break it down into several smaller posts.

The core issue I want to tackle are Capital Ships and how they fit into our new combat paradigm.  I had intended for this to be a single post, but it turned out to be nearly 4500 words, so I'm going to break it down into a two parter.  Today, we start with some theory, and then dive into a greatly expanded set of rules on Passenger Actions.

Why Capital Ships?

Most space-based combat games find that they naturally center around a “sweet spot” of design. For games like Wing Commander, this is the fighter; for settings like Star Trek, this is the capital ship. For settings like Star Wars (and thus Psi-Wars) we need to justify multiple sweet spots to make our visions of our desired form of space combat come to life.

Psi-Wars focuses mostly on the model of “one character, one ship,” and this works best with starfighters, and thus starfighters are probably the prime form for participating in space combat. Thus the other models, the corvette and capital ship, need their justification. I’ll put off justifying the corvette, except to note that it offers an opportunity for multiple characters to lend their skill on a ship that is competitive with starfighters.

The Dreadnought offers a far greater concern when it comes to justification. They represent enormous resource investments that lack the speed and agility of a fighter, and sport similar firepower, and are vulnerable to starfighters. Why, then, would someone field capital ships at all, instead of fielding fleets and fleets of starfighters? Moreover, how does the capital ship fit into the model of “one character, one ship?” How can our GURPS Action Vehicular Combat model all of this, making the dreadnought useful while still keeping it focused on a single character? To make dreadnoughts function, we need to answer these questions.

The justification of the dreadnought is perhaps the easiest question to answer. The word “capital ship” arose to describe the sort of “dreadnought ironclads” that arose during the heady naval years before WW1 (and thus, in a sense, “Dreadnought” and “Capital Ship” are synonymous, at least if we use the former term to describe a class of ships). I don’t know the logic of justification behind the term “Capital Ship,” but capital is a term used to describe the great industrial machines in which a nation would invest, suggesting that a capital ship is a great industrial machine of war, a giant mobile fortress from which the rest of your operation can be staged.

This is certainly an apt description for a carrier. A starfighter lacks long-term accommodations and the capacity of long hyperspace journeys, and people and tanks certainly lack the ability to travel through space. The carrier offers room, accommodations and transport capacity for starfighters and soldiers, ferrying them across the galaxy. In a game, they often serve as a “mobile base.” In Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, a playtest I ran to test whether a dreadnought was “too much ship for players to handle,” I found they mostly used their dreadnought this way: they slept in its cabins, flirted in its cantina, planned in its briefing room, and launched their starfighters from its hangars.

We should also consider the capital role of flagship. The great size of a capital ship allows it to carry far more electronics and expert crew members than the average starfighter or corvette. With access to megacomputers, FTL communication and huge sensor arrays, the capital ship has unparalleled ability to see and command a battlefield. They can coordinate fighter squadrons or ground troops, and they can put expert strategists and spies to answering any questions the members of the arrayed force might have.

Finally, the capital role of the battleship remains valid because a blaster shot is much cheaper than an expensive isomeric nuclear torpedo! While a starfighter can defeat a capital ship, so can another capital ship, and it can do so over and over again without needing to refuel or reload, and can do so from a fairly extreme distance. This is less important for swift “first strikes” against other capital ships, but it’s vital to be able to pour on firepower against hardened ground targets, ideally from orbit where you are far away from anti-air defenses.

What the Fighter Ace is to the starfighter, the Officer is to the Dreadnought. Naturally, a fighter ace can directly control his vehicle, while the officer must command his crew to carry out his orders and must coordinate that crew effectively and efficiently. But where a corvette, with a crew numbering typically no more than ten, can afford to allow a handful of heroic characters to shine (one top notch pilot with a couple of highly skilled gunners and a single, desperate scavenger trying to keep the ship flying), a capital ship can have crews in the literally thousands, making it nearly impossible for the singular actions of a character to make a difference. Thus, we must treat out crew as natural organic extensions of heroic characters.

The rest of this post naturally arises from my attempt to adjust the action chase rules to fit these changes. GURPS Action assumes small vehicles with a single driver and a passenger or three: a car chase with perhaps motorcycles and a helicopter or a tank; they do not envision “chase scenes” with battleships and carriers. We need them because they impact battle, but they should do so on a larger, more strategic scale.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Solo: The Best New Star Wars Film You Haven't Seen

So, Solo: A Star Wars story is finally out for rent, and I finally took the time to sit down and watch it.  I didn't have the chance to do so when it came out in movie theaters (more on why, and what it means, later) but I wanted to see it, and having seen it, I want to give my thoughts on it and, I hope, clear up some of the air around it, in case you haven't seen it, heard it was bad, and were avoiding it for some reason.

The TL; DR is that it's good, definitely worth your money to rent, but it isn't flawless, and I suspect you already know what the flaws are and, if you haven't seen it, it's because of those flaws.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Generic Fleet Followup: The Battleship Slugfest (and more!)

After yesterday's post, Discord has been buzzing with questions.  I wanted to answer a few as best as I could, especially since it lets me dive a little into how I came to yesterday's conclusions.

  • How do various ships match-up against one another?
  • Destroyer vs Corvettes, which is better?
  • My assumptions

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Generic Fleet: A Psi-Wars Tactical Context

It's easier to know what you're doing when you can see what's going on.  One of the reasons I recommend the iterative approach to design is that once you've constructed one piece of your puzzle, or given yourself an overview of what your final product will look like, putting the rest of the pieces in gets that much easier, and flaws jump out at you.

A lack of this overview has proved a problem for my spaceship designs in Psi-Wars.  In iteration 3, it didn't matter because I just borrowed existing ships and used the assumptions there.  Why is an Empire-Class dreadnought SM +14? It doesn't matter, it just is. But if I'm going to rebuild it, I need to know why it's that size, and what it's facing, so I can know how much firepower is enough, how much DR is too much, etc.  More than that, if I'm going to run playtests, I often need more pieces than just "Dreadnough, Typhoon, Starhawk."  How does a battleship fare against a dreadnought? To know that, I need a battleship!

Thus I realized I needed a "generic fleet," worked exemplars of of typical space warship designs.  By seeing how those ships worked and how they interacted with one another, I could see both whether my new rules worked, and what sort of ship designs I should built.  It also offered a shortcut for my work: if I have to "run Psi-Wars now" I can use the ships in the generic fleet.  They're not great, but they're enough.

These designs are not meant to be  the perfect design, nor are they particularly customized.  The final versions of various navies will include much more particular ships: an Imperial Dreadnought, for example, might combine the designs of the battleship and the carrier below, while a pirate fleet might have several variations of corvettes.  I also didn't dive deeply on details that didn't matter for the purposes of this test.  So I didn't put much thought into crew complements or diplomatic accommodations, etc.  These are basic designs meant to be sufficient to provide examples and to get a good overview on how the tactics of Psi-Wars work.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dreadnoughts don't Dogfight: Thoughts on Spaceship Accuracy in GURPS Action

The playtest between the Typhoon and the Starhawk raised some oddities regarding accuracy that I want to revisit, but far more importantly, the addition of Dreadnoughts into the game are really going to play havoc with some assumptions of the Action chase system in that we’re adding a vehicle that really operates by very different assumptions than a fighter does. This motivated me to stop and rethink how we should handle accuracy so we don’t get surprised by some emergent gameplay at the table.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Eggshells with Hammers in Psi-Wars: Contemplating Capital-Scale Damage

"I'm interested in seeing how you handle the eggshells with hammers problem" - Patron Jose
"That's not how I would see dreadnoughts fighting one another." - Patron Brett Tamahori

So, the drop of the dreadnought and my Eggshells with Hammers article sparked quite some discussion with made me stop and think and revisit a lot of ideas I had, which proved fruitful. It also proved time-consuming, and I’m still walking through the results. Balancing damage in Psi-Wars has proved difficult for precisely the reasons I outlined in my article, and it’s a problem a lot of people face. Thus, I thought by posting these musings, proposed rule changes and synthesis of various house-rules might serve as a useful worked example for others.

This is going to be a long walk through some GURPS "insider baseball."  The idea is to highlight the problems with how GURPS handles damage at large scales for the specific problem of dealing with fighters vs dreadnoughts as we tend to see in Star Wars and other forms of space opera, so read a long if that interests you!  This will be the first of, ah, a few posts.

Friday, October 26, 2018

On Eggshells with Hammers

As I work on my GURPS Vehicles conversion, I get a lot of questions, and this is a common one for anyone who works with GURPS Spaceships. This post will be a deep dive into some basic assumptions behind GURPS and how it derives damage, HP and DR and how those relationships interact on the extreme ends of things like Spaceships and Ultra-Tech.

 The most common complaint leveled against GURPS Spaceships is that spaceships are "eggshells with hammers," that their firepower vastly exceeds their capacity to absorb damage, and fights ultimately come down to who fires first, who is more accurate, and who has better point defense, than who has better armor or who is bigger.  This may be realistic. It's certainly how battles play out in, for example, the Bobiverse, and it's pretty close to how combat plays out in the real world, where a single missile is generally enough to take out a major naval warship like a carrier (and one of the reasons we moved away from battleships and to carriers: better to project firepower far, far away from the ship than to try to absorb a single hit).  But it's not necessarily fun, and it creates some perverse incentives.  Where does it come from, who thought this was a good idea, and what can we do about it?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Empire-Class Dreadnought 2.0 - the Vehicle

The Stats

ST/HP: 4000†

Hand/SR: -2/6

HT: 12

Move: 4/100 (+10)

LWt.: 410,000

Load: 60,000

SM: +14

Occ.: 5000 ASV

DR: 5000/2500*

Range: NA (5 jumps)

Cost: $111B

Loc.: gGs40t

*the Empire-Class dreadnought has DR 5000 on the front, and 2500 everywhere else except for its turrets and sensors, which have a DR of 100. It has a force screen with 15,000 dr (ablative).

†The Empire-Class dreadnought has Injury Tolerance: Damage Reduction (2)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Empire-Class Dreadnought 2.0 - Inspirations

So, for my playtest, I've completed a new version of the Starhawk and the Typhoon, two vehicles already available in GURPS Spaceships 4.  For the third "iconic" Psi-Wars vehicle, I have chosen the Empire-Class Dreadnought from GURPS Spaceships 3.  The Empire-Class has served as our primary "imperial" warship, the dread conqueror and the powerhouse to beat.  It has showed up in playtests and in Tinker Titan Rebel Spy, my short-lived Psi-Wars campaign.

The Empire-Class Dreadnought isn't too bad as far as GURPS Spaceships creations go.  It lacks major issues and, in fact, taught me a lot about spaceship design.  It has perhaps an unrealistically large hangar, and it lacks missiles and armor, which tend to be the mainstays for more realistic ships, but it makes up for it with superb firepower, including an astonishing spinal cannon and very powerful force screen.  This makes it both a terrifying threat, a planet-conquering troop-transport, and a cinematically satisfying opponent to take on, as once you defeat or bypass its screens, even a relatively small fighter can take it out with a well-placed torpedo.

With the recreation of Vehicles in 4e, the goal now is to rebuild it in Vehicles, but also to re-imagine it from the ground up, rather than just "converting" the existing ship.  To do that, I want to dive into what it is, what inspired it, and what role it serves in its fleet.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Action Vehicular Combat Playtest 1 - Starhawk vs Typhoon

Now that we have an update to our Action Vehicular Combat, integrated the Chase rules, the Dogfighting rules and a few additional expansions, we need to test it out, with our newly revised Typhoons and Starhawks! Naturally, we need pilots, so we’ll choose our old friend Tobin Starlaw, to whom we’ll give this fancy new Ace Fighter advantage, and we’ll choose Starlet as his wingman. Starhawks are superior to Typhoons (they certainly cost more), and Tobin and Starlet are superior pilots, so they should be able to easily handle an array of mook fighters. Thus, for this battle, we’ll have the pair face off against a wing of 5 typhoons in an asteroid field (Rough, Normal terrain which starts at Distant range).

For simplicity, Tobin has Pilot 18, Gunnery/Artillery 16, Daredevil and Ace Fighter. Starlet has Skill 15 in everything pertinent. Tobin has an ally Tech-Bot with skill-18 in anything pertinent (mainly Electronics Operations, Hyperspace navigation and doing quick repairs). Starlet has some lame, run of the mill robot with no personality and skill 12. The Starhawk stats are here. What matters most is that the Starhawk has the following traits:

  • 140 HP, HT 11

  • An absolute maximum speed (for escape) of 650 (+14)

  • +4 Dodge (in high agility)

  • A best possible Chase Roll (high agility, afterburner) of +17

  • +4 accuracy on its missiles (4 missiles), with 6dx10 damage

  • -4 ECM (and a decoy launcher)

  • ROF 12 cannon (+2 to hit), with 6dx5(5) damage

  • DR 15 and force screen DR 200 which can be angled.

Our imperial pilots have skill 12. For a reference to a typhoon, see here. What matters most is that the Typhoon has the following traits:

  • 90 HP, HT 9f

  • An absolute maximum speed (for escape) of 750 (+15)

  • A best possible Chase Roll (afterburner) of +15

  • +5 dodge

  • -4 ECM (and a decoy launcher)

  • ROF 6 between two cannons (+1 to hit), with 6dx5(5) damage

  • DR 15

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Action Vehicular Combat

These rules are based on the GURPS Action Chase rules starting on Page 31 of GURPS Action 2: Exploits; this has been substantially updated to account for dogfighting and other, heavier forms of vehicular combat.  While this was designed for Psi-Wars, most of it should work for any vehicle-heavy Action game.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Action Vehicular Combat - Musings

One of the reasons I wanted to step away from GURPS Spaceships is that it seems less compatible with the GURPS Action rules than I would like, and I didn’t want one rule-set for outspace and one ruleset for the ground. In principle, a repulsor-car chase and a dogfight should be essentially the same.

I’ve dug through the chase rules, and the Dogfighting rules from Pyramid and, of course, I’m already familiar with the Spaceship combat rules. My intent here was to get a feel for how things worked, and what I’d want to change if I wanted to use the rules for Psi-Wars. My core discovery is that the Chase rules are for chases, and what I really want is a vehicular combat system. The chase rules comment several times on what happens when you “Catch up” to your target: combat happens. Fortunately, the chase rules support combat, allowing the game to flow in and out of combat and chases:

Chases and combat aren’t exclusive! The chase rules support combat during a chase, and the GM is free to end a chase if both sides decide to stop running and start shooting. Similarly, if somebody bolts from a fight, the GM can switch over to the chase rules -GURPS Action 2 page 31

So if we want a more comprehensive example of what a Psi-Wars Dogfight or Tank battle looks like, what we ultimately need to do is work out how vehicular combat should work in GURPS Action, as the GURPS Action doesn’t really consider this, focusing more on cars and motorcycles than tanks and fighter jets.

Incidentally, a quick aside: one thing I’ve struggled with in GURPS Action is how to handle movement. If you’re at rifle range and you want to move to melee range, how do you do it? The answer has been staring me in the face the whole time: you trigger back into the chase rules. Duh. This actually means moving into melee is actually pretty easy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Starhawk 2.1 - The Vehicle

The Stats

ST/HP: 135

Hand/SR: +2/4

HT: 11

Move: 9/500* (+14)

LWt.: 19

Load: 2

SM: +5

Occ.: 1SV

DR: 15

Range: 20,000*

Cost: $51M

Loc.: g3rR2Wi

Stall: 65

*The Starhawk is equipped with an afterburner which improves the Move to 12/600 (+14) and handling to +3 and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 6,000 miles, if used continuously).

†The Starhawk has variable geometry wings. “Speed Geometry” use the above stats; “Agility Geometry” halves its top speed (250 (+12) or 300 (+13) with afterburner), gives it a +1 to handling and reduces the Stall speed to 32. While using both afterburner and Agility geometry, it has a total handling of +4 and a top speed of 300 (+13).

‡The Starhawk has a force screen with DR 200. This may be angled to create 400 DR in a particular direction, but 100 DR in another directions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Starhawk 2.1 - Inspirations

As with the Typhoon, the Starhawk is a vehicle you can just “plug and play,” and is found in GURPS Spaceships 4. And like with the Typhoon, we need to convert it into our new system and, while doing that, why not make the Starhawk our own? And so, I’d like to take a moment to ponder the Starhawk, its design, its inspirations, its mission, and what a semi-original take on it might look like.

The Starhawk, as written in GURPS Spaceships 4, is a pretty good vehicle. It has no obvious flaws or errata that I can see. It has plenty of maneuverability, firepower and durability, and accurately reflects its inspiration, which is obviously the X-wing. It handled well in my playtests, and I expect it to be as popular in Psi-Wars as its inspiration was in Star Wars. The only real problems I can see with the design is that it has wings (despite not needing them), and that it can’t “move” its wings the way an X-wing can, so it really only has one “mode” of flight (perhaps it can move its wings, but this makes no mechanical difference to the vehicle). It’s also a complicated beast to manage, as you need to play with the power points of beg your tech-bot to boost the system. This seems more feature than bug, an intention of the design, but it’s a feature that might not translate well to our new design. The gun is also a problem: GURPS SS has a sort of “maximum reasonable gun” for a given SM, but our vehicles don’t have to follow that, and a single high ROF gun is definitely cheaper and lighter than 4 weapons with ROF 1 that have the same damage.

Most of these problems can be addressed with a simple conversion. Our new system does require wings, and allows for variable wing geometries, and there are ways to handle power-points and such. The gun we’ll have to either accept or change and thus fundamentally change the design of the vehicle.

The X-Wing

The Starhawk is clearly inspired by the X-Wing, which I would argue is the most iconic of the Star Wars fighters, and may be the most iconic sci-fi starfighter of all time (though probably not the most iconic starship: the Enterprise, Millennial Falcon and the Death Star probably beat it out). It’s very popular, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use some improvements.

The single biggest concern that I have for the X-wing is precisely how iconic it is. When doing my homework for TIE fighters, I had only to google up “alternate TIE fighters” to get a bevy of ideas and artwork for new TIE fighters, but with X-Wings I had no such luck. There are, of course, a variety of models, but they all look and perfrom virtually the same. A few specific details might change here and there, but the core elements of “moveable wings that can form an X” and the pointed nose and the astromech all remain. This leaves me with a conundrum: either I copy an iconic Star Wars fighter, which I think damages Psi-Wars as an “original setting” or I make serious changes to the fighter that threaten its “Star Wars-ness.” This, I think, will be the trickiest and most contentious part of the design.

The other issue worth raising are the guns and their placement. Fighters use to place their guns on their wings mainly to get around their propeller, and it required them to make concessions. For example, they needed to make their guns converge on some point in front of the fighter, which limited how far away, and how close, they could shoot. It’s not clear to me at all why one would need to mount your guns like that. Such a mounting might help dissipate heat while using the wings as a sort of radiator, but frankly you could do that with a body-mounted cannon too, and such a weapon would fire directly along the center-line of the craft allowing greater range, and a single high ROF cannon is more economical than multiple low ROF cannons.

Another quibble: the X-wing has four, pod-mounted engines. Pod-mounted engines are, of course, real things and offer interesting options, like preventing your vehicle from being catastrophically destroyed when one of its engines are destroyed, so this is fine. However, the new trilogy has things that look like pod-mounted engines, but evidently aren’t, as the engine is mounted on the main body, in the back (you can clearly see this in the Last Jedi when Poe Dameron accelerates at the Dreadnought). What, then, are those things on the wings? Why are they there?

The X-wing has a few non-obvious features, such as cargo space for the pilot. It’s not much more than survival supplies, and you see Luke pulling gear out if it in the Empire Strikes Back, but it’s an interesting option. Paired with its hyperdrive and its life-support, it’s a vehicle that one could travel the galaxy in. I’m not sure why you need a fighter that can hyperjump on its own (what’s the point of a carrier, then?), but it says something interesting about the long-range nature of the X-wing.

I must also admit to being in love with the idea of an astro-mech. The purpose of it isn’t entirely obvious in the movies, but the astromech handles the navigation of hyperspace and it acts as a second crew member. In my research, I discovered that many fighters have two crew members, typically a pilot and a crewman (“Goose” from Top Gun is the latter). This crewman can handle things like sensors, ECM, comms, etc, which frees up the pilot to just focus on flying and fighting, and I suspect our astromech fulfills a similar role.

All the rest makes a considerable amount of sense, from the deflector screens to the cockpit design and even the ejection system (assuming that it doesn’t just spit you out into space without a vacc suit…). There’s a reason its a popular craft: it looks cool, and it makes sense, more or less.

The Starhawk Inspirations

This article by Popular Science compares the X-wing to the Supermarine Spitfire: both have exceptionally thin wings, high speed and maneuverability and multiple guns. The spitfire had four guns per wing. I did some research into why people would mount so many guns on wings, and it turns out its because these light machine guns needed to make up for their lack of killing power when it came to shooting down other fights. Why not just mount autocannons, then? The answer is: they didn’t have them at the time, for whatever reason. Once their manufacturing capacity caught up to demand, spitfires began to sport 20mm autocannons.

Other sources compa
re the X-Wing to the P40 Wildcat, and prefers to compare Star Wars to the pacific theater than to the Battle of Britain. Compared to the Zero, the P40 was less maneuverable, but more robust and generally more broadly capable. This is an apt comparison, as we would generally expect one to want to be in an X-wing rather than a TIE-fighter. Where a TIE fighter is a mook ship that does one thing and does it well, the X-wing is a robust jack-of-all-trades fighter that gives it flexibility and robustness more appropriate to a hero-fighter, and needs to use that flexibility, paired with team-work, to defeat the more specialized TIE fighter.

For more modern examples, the article above compares the X-Wing to the F-16. They argue that an X-Wing is a combination of fighter and strike craft, and I think this is accurate. While the Y-Wing was clearly the “heavy fighter/bomber” craft, the X-wing could supplement it if necessary, thanks to its proton torpedoes. We often see this sort of fighter which fulfills multiple roles, and the X-wing seems an iconic example, and that makes it a sort of ideal “player” ship.

But for me, the best modern metaphor for an X-Wing is the F-14 Tomcat, and not just because I watched Top Gun recently. It’s a carrier-capable fighter with variable sweep wings and a second crewmember. Sound familiar? The complexity of flying the craft and camaraderie between tech-bot and pilot on a Starhawk would match that of the crew of an F-14.

When it comes to fiction, I find it hard to find a good example of an X-wing-type ship outside of Star Wars. The Old Republic has their Talon/Liberator class fighter and Wing Commander has its Hellcat, and really, if you look around, you can find any “typical heroic fighter” in any story. That’s what the Starhawk ultimately is: a fighter for a hero to engage in any sort of space adventure. This is why it has a hyperdrive and why it has a compartment for supplies and why it can be super-maneuverable but also super-tough, etc etc etc. In a sense, I find this its greatest weakness thematically, and why it’s hard to find parallels: the X-wing is distinct in appearance, but indistinct in mission. The X-wing is either “okay” at everything, in which case it’s like a Hellcat from WC3, or it’s “the best” at everything, in which case, why do you have other fighters? Star Wars needn’t make compromises on its designs, but we do and the question is where we make those compromises.

Another big problem I face is how to take such a visually distinct vehicle and create another that captures the spirit of the X-wing while still being original, and the best craft I can find for inspiration in that regard is, of all things, the U-Wing of Rogue One. Like the X-wing, it has four engines and variable wings, but it has two, which sweep forward and back. With the wings fully swept back, we might have a “delta-swept wings” and maximize your speed. Classically, with lateral wings, we have maximum maneuverability, but we can make them forward-swept “high agility” wings like the wings of a hawk (our namesake) for our maximum maneuverability, and we can bring the wings against the fuselage for maximum compactness when on the carrier. A neat trick. Thus, if we take the back half of the U-wing, replace the front-half with a sleeker, fighter-like design, and shrink the entire vehicle down to a one-man fighter rather than a full transport, then I think we have a vehicle that captures the dynamics of the X-wing without looking like an x-wing.

The Starhawk 2.1 Mission Profile

Our design should reflect the intended usage of the Starhawk, and thus, we need to know what that intended usage is.

If we argue that the Starhawk is an Alliance ship, then the Alliance is governed by elites who want to excel at battle, who want to participate in all engagements, and who want to survive. A pilot becomes the equivalent of a well-armored knight.

What we get is a multi-role fighter, something that must be quick enough to act as an interceptor, agile enough to act as a dog-fighter, and with sufficient armament to be a strike fighter, and sufficient durability to keep its pilot alive. The one thing such a ship wouldn’t have is a cheap price-tag, but it represents a vehicle where its designers bet on quality over quantity. The complexity of the craft favors experienced/elite pilots who know how to manage the variable sweep and how to handle a wide array of missions, which also favors a “quality, elite aristocracy” over the masses of combatants.

The hyperdrive is an unusual choice, but it says a few things about the mission. First, it means the fighter is not reliant on a carrier. It might use a carrier, especially for longer jumps, but it extends a carrier’s reach considerably, and a squadron of planet-based fighters could join a larger fleet ad hoc and make a strike with them without worrying whether there was enough room on a carrier. This suits the “ad hoc” nature of Alliance defenses, as local planetary defenders need only have a Starhawk on hand to join the fight, provided the fight isn’t half a galaxy away. Further, paired with internal rations and 5-day life-support, the craft can act as a personal transport vehicle in a way a Typhoon cannot. If you have a Starhawk, you can access the stars, whether to fight for a good cause, to become a mercenary, or to become a pirate.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Responding to Typhoon Commentary

So, I've had some comments about the Typhoon, some praise, some criticism, some response to questions and some surprised gasps.  I wanted to take a moment to address them and discuss some thoughts that arose from them.

I want to thank everyone participating in the discussion, and if you're not already on Discord, where most of the conversation seems to take place, I highly recommend you join us!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Typhoon 2.0 - the Vehicle

The Stats

ST/HP: 90

Hand/SR: +5/4

HT: 9f

Move: 18/550* (+14)

LWt.: 5.6

Load: 0.3

SM: +4

Occ.: 1S

DR: 15

Range: 13,000*

Cost: $11M

Loc.: g3rR2Wi

Stall: 32

*The Typhoon is equipped with an Afterburner which improves the Move to 27/650 (+14) and consumes four times as much fuel (reducing range to 3,250 miles, if used continuously).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Typhoon 2.0 - Thoughts and Inspirations

Since I began Psi-Wars, I’ve been using existing ships as much as possible. Why? Because that’s why they exist! If you want to sit down and just play, you grab a blaster from GURPS Ultra-Tech, a template from GURPS Space and a starship from GURPS Spaceships and you play. But now that we have a new, updated vehicle system, and a new paradigm for handling spaceships, why not build my own? Or, at least, adapt the old ideas to the new system and, as usual, branch out in my own direction as necessary. Shortly, I'd like to use these ships as a test bed for any new dogfighting system, so I need to start with something.

Why not the Typhoon?  It represents a knock-off of the iconic Tie-Fighter, though one tailored to the conceits of GURPS Spaceships. It's been central to all my previous dogfighting examples, and so definitely has a place here. But the Typhoon, as written, in GURPS Spaceships 4, has a few problems. For one thing, it has two fusion reactors when, at most, it needs only one. The second is that it’s heavily armored, which may work well for GURPS Spaceships, but will definitely not fly in our new system, where starfighters work like actual fighters, and tons of heavy armor would make it drop out of the sky!

So, we need to build a new Typhoon. The real intent of this design is not necessarily to give us a final version of the Empire’s primary starfighter, but to give us something we can play with when fixing the dogfighting system for Psi-Wars. It also gives me a chance to meditate upon the Typhoon and its inspirations from Star Wars and from the real world.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sensors, Planetary Power and Comments on Smuggling: A Psi-Wars Electronics Ammendum

While not strictly necessary for the running of a good Psi-Wars game, I personally enjoy thinking through the consequences of my choices, and I find that many of my readers enjoy that as well.  Of course, a good space opera game doesn't really care much about the details, and cares more about the "Wow!" factor.  For example, a lot of Star Wars die-hards like to complain about a particular scene in the Last Jedi, while a lot of people counter "It's just a movie, it's cool, stop thinking about it so much," and that's fair!  If you stopped and overthought most of your space opera, you could probably poke a million holes in it, and the Rule of Cool matters more.  But that said, I find that having a bit of verisimilitude can help, especially if it doesn't hurt.  I've tried to arrange Psi-Wars so that it makes sense where possible.  I don't demand that you use it this way, but I try to bake it in without really getting in your way, so that if a weird question comes up, it can be easily and logically answered.

What follows here is my musings over the consequences of the scanner rules I have created, paired with some thoughts on hyperspace, war, smuggling and pirates and the roles fighters might play in such a situation.  It's really not necessary to understand, but like my discussions on Patreon about imperial "tactics," or my discussions on this blog about Insurgent Tactics, I find some people enjoy this sort of musing, so if you do, well, see you after the jump!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Psi-Wars Electronics II - Sensors and Sensor Jamming

In the real world, we use sensors for two main purposes: to alert us to the presence of an enemy, and to guide our missiles. In Space Opera, including Psi-Wars, we also use sensors to analyze a target: scanning for life-scans, picking up the make and model of a target, etc. We also use counter-measures: in the real world, to buy ourselves a little time before the enemy picks us up, and to jam guidance systems to keep us from being hit by a missile.

The technology used for both is easy enough: we use Ultrascanners for all our sensory needs, and we use Distortion jammers to disrupt all uses of ultra-scanners. The interesting question is not what we use, but to what scale and what rules should govern their use.

Welcome to  part II of my giant post on electronics.  Again, I have a focus on things I might use for military vehicles, because my ultimate goal here is to start working on dogfighting 2.0, which means we need to get a sense of how our vehicles work.  Yesterday, I looked at comms, today, I look at sensors.

As before, this touches on some of my vehicles material.  Feel free to ignore that if you wish.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Psi-Wars Electronics I -- Comms

I've been working on Electronics in general when my post spiraled out of control.  Originally, this was meant to cover sensors and sensor jamming when I noticed I hadn't touched on Comms and Comm-Jamming.  I, at least, see the fight between ECM and ECCM as a fight between sensor systems and counter-sensor systems, but in fact, it began as comm systems and counter-comm systems. Furthermore, this makes sense: once you’ve begun an ambush (whether pirates attacking a shipping freighter or a fighter wing attacking a patrol), not only do you want to prevent yourself from being detected, but you want to prevent the target from calling for assistance, or communicating any intelligence back to an authority figure.  So this is where I want to start.

Normally I peel out the GURPS Vehicles stuff for my Patreons, but it's too small to really make into its own document, and perhaps you'll find it interesting, and they have the whole document, which will be updated to include this information, so see it as a preview.  I also talk about "Low, Patrolling and High Orbit," in the document; this arises from the sensors discussion and a post that will drop later this week.  If I may briefly summarize them: low orbit is 100 miles from the surface, safely above the atmosphere but still close to the action.  Patrolling Orbit is about 500 miles up, as close to the surface as one can get while still maintaining "sight-lines" with other ships that might be guarding the planet at equidistant locations in a band around the planet, and high orbit is 4000 miles, one planetary radius away, which has to do with hyperspatial dynamics.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Psi-Wars Weaponry Revisited

Thus far in Psi-Wars, I've used the Ultra-Tech weapons more or less unchanged, though by Iteration 6, it was clear that we needed some changes.  The following details all weapons available in the setting and their general rules, and some additional changes and thoughts on the scale of weaponry that we might employ, especially on large scales.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A GURPS Spaceships Retrospective (and a GURPS Vehicles Conversion Patreon Post)

Psi-Wars makes intense use of GURPS Spaceships, and it has left me unsatisfied with the results, especially when it comes to ground vehicles.  As a result, I have turned to GURPS Vehicles from 3e as a guide to creating my own vehicles for Psi-Wars.  While this is more effort than Psi-Wars strictly needs, I did it because I happen to be a fan of GURPS Vehicles and a mourner of its absence in the 4e line-up, and I know that I am not alone in that.

So, for my Fellow-Travellers ($3+ Patrons), I have the first draft of that conversion document.  It was written with an eye towards Psi-Wars specifically; while useful as an example, I'm sure that many people will want to see Vehicles converted to their own specific campaign needs, and with an eye towards that, I have written the Vehicle Commentaries for all Dreamers ($1+ patrons), which discusses my observations on how to update Vehicles from 3e to 4e, and how you can use the same resources I did to do the same.  Some of the answers may not satisfy you, as 4e is less consistent than you might think about vehicles, but it does at least offer you a map that might help.

But I didn't want this to just be about GURPS Vehicles, nor did I want to write something exclusively for Psi-Wars Patrons, so I wanted to stop and discuss GURPS Spaceships, its shortcomings, and its brilliance.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Cross-Post: The Foalkan Clans

So, one of the players of the currently defunct "Tinker Titan Rebel Spy" has been tinkering with some Psi-Wars material, and I wanted to address it, because whenever someone posts Psi-Wars material, I want to give at least a shout-out.  I find a little commentary helps as well.

Here is the post: The Foalkan Clans

Before I dive into any further commentary, I want to address the concept of "adding Psi-Wars material."  I wrote Psi-Wars to be used, and to be useful.  I'm not really a fan of people who thump RPG setting books and say "This is canon!" except in the cases of discussion ("Well, as written, the Akashic Order is a thing and it works like this...") where you want to establish the baseline "as written."  In your own campaigns, you should be able to do as you wish.  But more than that, I wrote it to be explicitly "large."  I see it as a framework in which you should be able to put your own material.  I did this because of my initial frustrations with gaming in the Star Wars universe, in that I found it difficult to see where I could put my own material or have my own adventures (this seems to be a somewhat common complaint, if the new trilogy is any guide).  Thus, if I see people trying to add their own material, then I know my design is succeeding.

When I "finish," I'd like to break out the setting into "degrees of canon," with the "white canon" representing the core truths on which the setting hinges (things like "There is an Empire" and "There is Communion"), "grey canon" which are things that are fairly central but can be customized to serve the campaign pretty easily, things like the state of the Cult of the Mystical Tyrant, the moral nature of the Empire, or the exact nature of the Skairos.  Finally, I'd like to have a "black canon," which is entirely optional elements that may or may not be included without issue.  Certain alien races, like the Traders or the cat-people (the "Asrathi") or the Shepherdist faith, are all examples. If you dumped them from your game, nobody would notice. Also, if you added them to the game, they wouldn't interfere.  I'd very much want to throw open Black Canon to whomever wanted to add to it, and hinge open grey canon a crack so people could offer their own interpretations and spins on particular setting elements.

So, this is a very long way of saying: If you write it, I will come.  Not only that, I'll probably try to find some way to enshrine it.

Onto the commentary.

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