member, 16 posts
Wed 13 Jul 2022
at 20:28
Starship combat RPG systems
Currently shopping around a lot, checking out different systems and reading. Starfinder is pretty much the only system I’ve played, as far as TTRPG goes, with starship combat. Now I’m looking for what other systems exist. I enjoy both advanced systems with detailed options for player/character choices, and more simple and elegant system design as well as diceless systems. I’ve played Star Wars X-Wing, the figure/board game quite a bit before the second edition, and I was amazed with the intense dog fight feeling with very high skill cap maneuvers and such, so I know it can be simulated well for a game. But can it be made satisfactory in a role playing game?

What games/systems with starship combat do you know of? Please make a short description if you can :) which ones can you recommend?
 member, 482 posts
Wed 13 Jul 2022
at 21:39
Starship combat RPG systems
I'm fond of the old Star Wars Revised starship combat, or more properly, the starship customization. The Star Wars RCR Starships of the Galaxy supplement allows you to build anything you want, and includes extended rules to make starship combat really fun and just as much a part of the game as the ground combat.
 member, 17 posts
Wed 13 Jul 2022
at 22:19
Starship combat RPG systems
Thanks for the input, is that the d20 system or something else?
 member, 483 posts
Wed 13 Jul 2022
at 23:54
Starship combat RPG systems
One of the two d20 systems. The other is Saga, which takes space combat in a different, but still enjoyable, direction.
 member, 266 posts
Thu 14 Jul 2022
at 13:18
Starship combat RPG systems
I've only ever used Knight Hawks (The spaceship expansion for Star Frontiers), I am told it is not as fancy/realistic as Star Fleet Battles (which I have never played).  Knight Hawks very much has the feel of a WW2 naval game converted for space use and like probably most 'space' games it is 2 dimensional.  Probably not your cup of tea, but the only RPG space ship game I have any experience with.
 member, 56 posts
Thu 14 Jul 2022
at 15:26
Starship combat RPG systems
GURPS has the Starships line of books. Most of the base book is dedicated to a modular ship building system, with a somewhat simple combat system to go with it. The other books cover various sample vessels, as well as optional rules relating to a specific subject. For example: Spaceship 3 covers military vessels and pirate, as well as a tactical space combat with a map.

An other system I've tried recently, though it's a board game rather than an RPG: Stars of Akarios. It uses hex-based space combat, with a few base maneuvers supplemented by individual ship upgrades, and a card-based AI to dictate the opposition's actions. The biggest problem with it is that it would take a lot of work to figure out how to combine it's rules with that of your favorite RPG.
 member, 18 posts
Thu 14 Jul 2022
at 18:21
Starship combat RPG systems
Thanks for your input, more to check out! I’m starting to consider whether I should - if I prepare a campaign - prepare action-filled cutscenes with plenty of room for them to cut in (“We’ll hide behind that asteroid!”) with extra emphasis on actions for not just the pilot… instead of starship combats altogether. I see many issues to which I haven’t found appropriate solutions. In my party of four, do I really want one player to focus on being the pilot and feel out of place in all other circumstances on foot? How do the least starship-interested characters get to make interesting choices in combat? Without the pilot overshadowing all others?
A squadron of small starships (instead of one crew on one ship), possibly with very different capabilities, could do that. But with a modular system that demands a lot from the players. And it might take away the “starship as home/base” thing. And it demands that the campaign is very adapted to this particular plan.

Anyone played any campaigns that solved the need for cool starship experiences vs the complications of adapting a game to the starship as a supportive feature?
 moderator, 16113 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Thu 14 Jul 2022
at 18:38
Starship combat RPG systems
I've run ship-based games using Traveller.

Any iteration of the game has a space combat system that makes use of character skills and abilities.  In combat, all crew have jobs they can do to help the ship survive.
 member, 19 posts
Fri 15 Jul 2022
at 14:12
Starship combat RPG systems
In reply to bigbadron (msg # 8):

How are those combats though? Starfinder similarly has things to do for all the crew. If everyone studies what they *can* do, then many players will have meaningful choices (engineer: restore shields or boost the weapons, or other things) while the gunner kinda won’t (“roll your attack!”), the captain won’t (“choose who to give a lil bonus to”). Meanwhile, the pilot makes strategic movement that may affect this and other rounds, they may choose direction to attack from and against, make stunts that are defensive or offensive, make different weapons available due to several positional parameters, etc. The pilot makes stunts with a choice of risk and reward levels. Isn’t this asymmetry typical for space combat? Does traveler get around it?

Spotlight on one player is ofc useful and fun. But it’s hard to make such a mechanical spotlight into one of the foci of a campaign!
 member, 2627 posts
Fri 15 Jul 2022
at 14:23
Starship combat RPG systems
 I don't know  who here ever played Avalon Hill games..they were the foundaton of  my gaming before  Hitting RPGs

 Richtofen's War ( WWI aircraft )  had  a great '3-d' rule set, that i would adopt  and   tweak for the  types of  fighter  craft and ships in my games..just takes  a little bit of imagination

 Tobruk is a great , Tank Tactical  with tank Movements, which could be used  for   sci-fi combat if you used a game board

 Wooden ships  and Iron Men..very good  sailign ship Movement

   the  charts  for  hits, damage , crits, is very simple, once you play  the game once or twice... RW  war incorporates  Height, distance  and weapons  times, as well as wind  ..all the games have something...diatcne..armor, speed  weapon types.

 very easy to convert..but? only if you are using a combat map.

  for my game, it is  RP and..quite frankly' i can;t  do maps like many folks...I have a scratch sheet, i write what is goign on, players   write thier attacks for what they Hope will happen, and then i use  thier  Mods  from stats, and My own mods for the thigns  i mentioned above.

 is it perfect?..heck no..but it is  more  exciting  and somewhat realistic.. when you think  , as a pilot..or ship commander.. you can't see the whole can only see   what's 'right there'
 member, 232 posts
 Nuke em till they glow
 Shoot them in the dark.
Sat 16 Jul 2022
at 03:51
Starship combat RPG systems
My experiences were strictly Wooden Ships and Iron Men, and Starfleet Battles (board game).
 member, 2628 posts
Sat 16 Jul 2022
at 04:15
Starship combat RPG systems
RW  added the   elevation as well....many  aircraft games copied that, and tried to inprove on it, but it is never the same... Lets face it? all of us who run games have some time of imagination,its  not hard to tweak other rules into a tool you need.
 member, 7408 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Sat 16 Jul 2022
at 06:08
Starship combat RPG systems
The only system with which I have any reasonable amount of experience, as far as starship combat, is the WEG D6 Star Wars rules, which really weren't made to be any sort of realistic as far as actual battle is concerned...they were designed to be kind of a 'quick and dirty' conflict resolution system that had some variables involved that made it feel like ship combat instead of personal combat (fire control bonuses, controls being ionized, etc).

My overall experience with PBP has been, the more you can streamline combat, the better it ends up running for your game, unless you have players who absolutely love the number-crunching of something like Starfleet Battles.  But the more steps that are involved in resolving each combat round, the worse combat bogs down your game and the more likely it is that, instead of being the adrenaline rush that combat scenarios are normally perceived to be, combat can instead slow your game down to the point that it stops being fun (that's true beyond PBP...I was in a FTF D6 Star Wars game that had run for over a decade, and the GM decided he wanted to change it over to D20 Saga Edition.  We spent two gaming sessions retooling all the characters,  spent a third session laboring through a combat situation that would have taken us all of twenty minutes with D6 rules...and pretty much killed everyone's enthusiasm for continuing the game, at that point...not a knock on the D20SE rules, it's just that they had a totally different feel than what we'd all been playing for so long, and due to all of us being unfamiliar with the rules, ever action and reaction had to be looked up and calculated, instead of us all being able to run-and-gun with what we already knew.)

Almost every system-based game that I've participated in on here either simplified combat, or avoided it (used some non-dice system to resolve it, if at all possible)...or they kind of imploded due to the sudden loss of momentum when real combat set in.  There have only been a handful that have managed to sustain action using the full-blown combat rules (and those have usually been systems that already had fairly straightforward combat rules.)
 member, 1121 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Sat 16 Jul 2022
at 13:17
Starship combat RPG systems
Have you looked at "Battlestations: Second Edition"
While a board game, it should be easy enough to play in this format and modify as needed.
 member, 57 posts
Sat 16 Jul 2022
at 15:29
Starship combat RPG systems
If you're worried about the gunner being limited to 'roll attack', maybe giving him multiple weapon choices would help. For example, guns that are strong against shield or hull, but weak against the opposite; a powerful weapon with very limited ammo; weapon that have special side effects against the target's subsystems... things like that. It would take some care to avoid ending up with 'fake choices', where only one gun is ever good at any given time.

Another option would be to take a page out of the Andromeda show. The whole crew is on the big ship, but during battle they can take control of small remote drones to fight independently.
 member, 1812 posts
 Captain Oblivious!
Sat 16 Jul 2022
at 22:28
Starship combat RPG systems
In reply to CaptainHellrazor (msg # 5):

You've named systems that are just about opposites in terms of complexity.   Knight Hawks is about as simple as you can get; and Star Fleet Battles....well, the basic rule set is around 300 pages.

Star Wars Revised Core would probably be my first choice if I were doing A Wing Commander or other starship centered game.

This message was last edited by the user at 22:42, Sat 16 July 2022.

 member, 164 posts
Sun 17 Jul 2022
at 13:25
Starship combat RPG systems
There's the FASA Star Trek game's "Starship Combat Simulator", which is more  intended for group play than Starfleet Battles (there are different positions (command, engineering, tactical, etc  rather than just one move per turn, to allow several players on one side).

2300 AD's "Star Cruiser" is an interesting  try at a 'realistic' system. Rather than space opera, it's a lot of detection and figuring out where the enemy is. ("Hide and seek with bazookas" is one description I heard.)
 member, 20 posts
Mon 18 Jul 2022
at 08:42
Starship combat RPG systems
In reply to gorchek (msg # 15):

That was my idea when I played a straight soldier/gunner in starfinder. Issue in that system is: the interesting choice of guns is really made at ship creation and by the pilot. I took on the ship designing for the group cuz no one else really wanted to. So I fit eg a mining laser type deal that’s more effective when shields are depleted, and at very short range. We had a big gun on a turret and a big barrage of (limited) missiles available from our front arc. Designing the ship was great, but it was a one-man-job, like building a character. I could instruct my pilot in our strengths and weaknesses, and then he could try to utilize that in short- and long-term planning and flying. The rest of us wouldn’t have choices of that complexity at all. I’m sure a system could be built for that, but this one doesn’t have it :) Starfinder does have the option to fly a squadron rather than one big ship, that has its pros and cons. Been looking at mech systems lately, I’m currently under the impression that the individualized character sheet creation/control over a ship is the most important thing if I want challenging, strategic combat reminiscent of what I want from pathfinder/dnd3.5 combats. I am however also thinking that a more cinematic, improvised theater of the mind approach tailored to engage the group’s members might give exactly the coolness that starships deserve in a eg Star Wars campaign.
 member, 21 posts
Mon 18 Jul 2022
at 08:44
Starship combat RPG systems
Thanks everyone for input, I’m reading through and will check out some more rule books as adviced, but I might not have time to discuss and reply in depth here. Vacay has started and I gotta try to be social without the phone ;)
 member, 3001 posts
 If my opinion changes,
 The answer is still 42.
Mon 1 Aug 2022
at 10:25
Starship combat RPG systems
Going back to the 80s here, but Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks had a system that tied into its RPG game. I'm sure the rules would be easy to locate.
 member, 345 posts
 The Doctor.
Fri 12 Aug 2022
at 10:18
Starship combat RPG systems
a trip to the Warpspawn games site might net you what you are looking for.

( family friendly but old-school link: )

Also, the Free Wargames Rules wiki

( https://freewargamesrules.fand...gory:Science_Fiction )

Depending on your preferred level of complexity and access to old materials, I might throw in a few more suggestions.

Starfleet Battles has a free version that is eminently playable.

Alternity is freely available and has a ship combat thingy.

Voidstriker has vector movement and interesting concepts, I believe it has a free version as well.

Simply using Risus with teaming-up rules might be what you're looking for.

On the crunchier side, the big robot thing game$ have passable freely available packs as well.

In any case, I am a proponent of each player having their own starfighter/mech while the big ship is their base, as this mode of play doesn't fall apart if one player doesn't show up.

This message was last edited by the user at 10:34, Fri 12 Aug 2022.