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I Have Powers - [SpOp] PDQ# Space Opera Dogfighting Thoughts
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[SpOp] PDQ# Space Opera Dogfighting Thoughts
Some continuing thoughts on tweaks and adjustments for PDQ# Space Opera (which, as noted previously) will probably be my go-to concept for convention and pick-up games)...

While most of Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies can easily be reskinned from swashbuckling to space opera (Nationality to Planet, Mystical Gifts to Psychic Powers, mild adjustments to Setting the Dials, etc.), there is one element that is very different between these related genres: Vehicle Combat.

In a word: Dogfighting.

Here's a first assay -- in outline/bullet point format -- at handling that issue; I'd love your thoughts on the topic.

PDQ# SpOp Dogfighting

Ship Size
* Fighter (Starfury): A single pilot.
* Corvette (Millenium Falcon): A pilot and a couple gunners. [1]
* Capital Ship (the Enterprise): A crew of officers.

PC Ships vs. NPC Ships
(PC vs. NPC is intentionally assymetrical; these options will preferably be laid-out in a matrix/table; the idea is to preserve both the feel of space opera ship combat and value of PC actions in such.)

Page Refs: The Duel (S7S, p. 209*) and Vehicular Duels (S7S, p. 229*).

* PC Fighter vs. NPC Fighter: The Duel (Pilot vs. Pilot).
* PC Fighter vs. NPC Corvette: The Duel; NPC Ship has 5 dice to divvy and keep; PCs get +2 to attack and defense rolls per additional ship in their squadron.
* PC Fighter vs. NPC Capital Ship: The Duel; NPC Ship has 7 dice to divvy and keep; PCs get +4 to attack and defense rolls per additional ship in their squadron.

* PC Corvette vs. NPC Fighter: The Duel (each Gunner vs. NPC Pilot); NPC Fighters = Minions.
* PC Corvette vs. NPC Corvette: The Duel.
* PC Corvette vs. NPC Capital Ship: The Duel; NPC Ship has 5 dice to divvy and keep; PCs get +2 to attack and defense rolls per additional ship in their squadron. [2]

* PC Capital Ship vs. NPC Fighter: S7S Vehicular Duel, with Fighter Squadrons = Minion Squads.
* PC Capital Ship vs. NPC Corvette: S7S Vehicular Duel, with Duel damage (reducing Wound Ranks) rather than Vehicular Duel Damage (targeted Wound Ranks). [3]
* PC Capital Ship vs. NPC Capital Ship: S7S Vehicular Duels as normal.

[1] Non-pilot/non-gunner crewmembers use the "PCs Ganging Up" rules (S7S, p. 214) to directly aid the pilot or gunners, or can perform non-combat actions (damage control, scanning, etc.; see S7S, p. 227*, for ideas based on Vehicle Challenges).

[2] Or should this be a Vehicular Duel, with the NPC Ship having some bonuses?

[3] This may be a bit fiddly. Will definitely have to test it in play.

These rules might even be back-portable into S7S. Hmmm.


(Additional info on the PDQ# SpOp game played at Camp Nerdly 3 in this thread on Story-Games.)

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samaritan1975 From: samaritan1975 Date: June 4th, 2009 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh. This is something I wanna think on- because it's something that might work for the Transformers PDQ game I wanna give a spin sometime. :)
arashinomoui From: arashinomoui Date: June 4th, 2009 01:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not having had dice hit the table, I look at this and wince - one of the things that I liked about PDQ# and S7S is the flexibility and straightforwardness of the setting. The sub-systems were self contained. I either was dueling, or I was using S7S Vehicular dueling.

I would choose which one you wanted to do (my suggestion is Vehicular dueling, which I found neat and useful for making everyone useful).

My suggestion:
Fighter: 1 Role: Pilot. Get's to Captain himself.

Corvette: Standard positions from S7S reskinned for Space Opera. I don't have PDF or book, but the marines position may need to be changed. But this size should be the flexible PC Party ship, i.e., can handle 4-7 roles fairly easily (even if the PC is just in the passenger compartment, the player can roll dice for the NPC).

Capital Ship: At least double the positions from the Corvette (and thus the PCs have two roles - it would be great if you could divide the roles into active combat and support and have people pick and chose). I would argue against passive shields (ala Starwars) if only because that doesn't let you have someone playing active defense.
arashinomoui From: arashinomoui Date: June 4th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Differences could be in the ability to take and dish out damage, and the number of actions. If the Capital Ship has three gunnery positions, then it'll be ugly against the Corvette which has one; and deadly against the fighter, who may have one as well, but lacks the flexibility to split actions.
chadu From: chadu Date: June 4th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
The only issue with using the VD rules for a fighter is that the whole "order phase" for one character seems to be a time/energy/focus suck.

Capital ships are unabashedly VD. It's the Corvettes that are a real challenge to map here. (Recall that the touchstone is the MF, and I'm specifically thinking of its actions in ANH and RotJ.)
arashinomoui From: arashinomoui Date: June 4th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
See I liken the MF closer to what we have in S7S - perhaps this is a difference in how we are envisioning things - there's gunnery (ignore the fact that it is two guns and a hidden launchers), pilot/captain, and shields. It may be that the MF is really just a hopped up Fighter (it did fly with the fighters on the run at the second Death Star :))
chadu From: chadu Date: June 4th, 2009 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)


Two interesting options, here: the Corvette as a Big Fighter, or the Corvette as a Small Capital Ship.

(I've been pondering B5's White Stars, which are *very much* more a SCS than a BF.)

arashinomoui From: arashinomoui Date: June 4th, 2009 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link) I've tried to type a response, it keeps breaking down to a question in my mind of "Who do I command?"

If I command myself, it's a fighter.
If I command a staff, it's a corvette/support ship.
If I command a department, it is a capital ship.

Admittedly, the latter two are blurry, but a lot depends on how the physics of the world operates. Star Wars gets away with a lot because you can have fighters with jump/hyper drives - if you move to a world where the drives need to be on a corvette ship or bigger, you've now moved to an Aircraft carrier format, where capital ships are far more common. Plus weaponry strength matters. If a fighter's missiles, or a squadron can be a credible threat against a capital ship, it does not bode well for their existence.

But it really does depend on how you want to dial the action. Do you want several goliaths slugging it out sending out silent blasts of light and missiles as they dance a delicate ballet of monoliths.

Or there's the rush of fighters mixing it up between two carrier structures, knowing whoever has the best pilots to live fast or die wins because the carrier, if unsupported by corvettes is dead.

Or there's the BSG model, which is some sort of strange mixture that I haven't been able to postulate the reasoning behind. Battlestar and Base stars have to be in close support of the fighters, yet it is curious whether the fighters actually pose a valid threat. Most of the destruction is done as Base Star versus Battlestar (note I haven't started Season 4, so my answers might be there).

Can you tell I'm a space military/opera fiction junkie?
From: roguerooster Date: June 4th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Regarding the BSG model, I was always under the impression that the capital ships were the ones damaging each other precisely because the fighters were too busy tangling it up with each other to properly screen against incoming missiles. I also get the impression that were the fighters not opposed by enemy fighters, they would indeed be a threat to a capital ship if for no other reason than by sheer weight of number (though vipers can carry nukes I believe).
arashinomoui From: arashinomoui Date: June 5th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC) (Link)
After posting that I spent the next 30-45 minutes looking it up, and while the Viper load out is more rigid, I know the Cylon Raiders can carry nukes (though they are only shown doing that during the pilot)
arashinomoui From: arashinomoui Date: June 4th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh and thanks now I'm busy contemplating how different rules for weapons could change dynamics - nothing that would work, I think for PDQ#, but it is distracting.
torresroman From: torresroman Date: June 4th, 2009 01:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just an initial impression, so please take with a whole saltshaker.

First, I'm wondering if these will be generic space opera rules. If not, I'm wondering which setting they'll most likely resemble. Star Wars? Star Trek? Flash Gordon? Battlestar Galactica? Babylon 5?

I suppose the reason I ask is because each of these settings has a different "dial" as to how much, say, an individual fighter could damage a capital ship.

Hm. Now there's a thought, perhaps? Setting dials for ship-to-ship combat, with different bonuses, etc., for each setting of the dial?
chadu From: chadu Date: June 4th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now that's a really interesting idea.

I still need a basic skeleton framework for everything, though -- but I think that Setting the Dials for Dogfighting is a damned good idea.

(I was trying to make sure the Corvette level handled both the MF vs. TIE fighters and War Rocket Ajax vs. Hawkmen, looking at both sides of these conflicts from a PC and an NPC perspective. Not sure if I accomplished that.)

chadu From: chadu Date: June 4th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Further idea: If a bigger NPC ship misses a smaller PC ship with an attack, one of the PC's non-player "squadron mates" goes boom anyway.

torresroman From: torresroman Date: June 4th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Abstract dogfighting in swarms of PC ships?


And another saltshaker ... if the PCs piloting fighters are the most important people in their squadron, then (riffing off the dials above), perhaps you could treat an entire squadron of fighters in the same way you would a capital ship, with the PC as the captain? Treat an entire squadron as one big capital ship for the purposes of squadron vs. Capital ship or squadron vs. squadron combat?

Too abstract?
jonlaw From: jonlaw Date: June 4th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this idea. It has potential.
animadversio From: animadversio Date: June 4th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

My group's about to kick off our S7S campaign this Saturday night, with an in media res flashback adventure to explain how they all came together on the ship that I'm providing them as a team vehicle for the campaign.

I'm still working on it, but the central premise of this kickoff will be a nearly epic aeronautical battle near Colrona, during the Jungle Sky, in which several opposing factions (pirates, a Barathi squadron, a trio of Zultanate heavy war galleons, Viridese mercs on gliders, Sha Ku ruq riders, maybe even some bluemen, etc.) battle each other and the Colronan defenses over control of a Colronan flying fortress/prison (think a mash-up of Alcatraz and The Guns of Navarone).

Something like that... I'm mixing up a heady but deliberately vague stew, and throwing the PCs (at least 4 and quite possibly 7) and their various agenda/motivations in there -- most if not all of them will start in Vexing Misfortune, with a few Style Dice on hand to be creative with fleshing the situation out for themselves and each other). The only controlling factor is that they have to make some effort to make their "unity" make sense by the end of the session... or if that doesn't work, I imagine we'll play it by ear, because all of these folks are cool and know how to bring the awesome.

It could all go horribly, horribly wrong... but I imagine it will still be fun no matter what. :)

The one thing I've been mildly concerned about (of course, not actually having played it yet) is how to handle the multiple ship battles that I'm envisioning as a mini-Trafalgar, with various sides firing at each other, as well as the Colronans. Our first session, therefore, might either be the completely wrong time to attempt use your rules above ... or the perfect opportunity.

I'll ponder this.

(It also occurs to me that if you're bored and have no social engagements this Saturday night, you're MORE than welcome to show up, since I'm in the Fairfax County portion of Alexandria, not too far from the Krispy Kreme on Rt. 1. Two of the folks playing are ENnies judges. Just sayin' :)

In any event, I'm still reading and re-reading the Vehicular Duels section, but it might not be a stretch or a bad idea to incorporate what you've got above.

Edited at 2009-06-04 01:45 pm (UTC)
chadu From: chadu Date: June 4th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
The one thing I've been mildly concerned about (of course, not actually having played it yet) is how to handle the multiple ship battles that I'm envisioning as a mini-Trafalgar, with various sides firing at each other, as well as the Colronans.

Quicky advice: Only worry about who's firing on the PCs at the moment. For whole sides, just use Challenges.

Alas, I do have a social engagement on Saturday night out in Fairfax -- but it's good to know you're not far from me and close to the Font of Greasy, Doughy LURVE.


animadversio From: animadversio Date: June 4th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gotcha. It's quite possible (hopeful?) that the PCs might be firing at each other, at first, as well. I'm not requiring them to be friends or allies with each other at first, to get around the whole "you meet in a tavern, and find each other to be trustworthy sorts..."

I'm gleefully expecting chaos to occur. :)
jonlaw From: jonlaw Date: June 4th, 2009 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have been pondering this heavily and getting some thoughts down (not quite ready for prime time) in using S7S/PDQ# for a Starship Combat for my take on PDQ# Trek. I have been shamelessly stealing ideas on the character development from's writeup that you posted links to several weeks back.

I am trying mightily to keep things as simple as possible while providing the flexibility to cover the range of conflicts seen in the various Star Trek movies and series. Not sure how well I succeed, but one of the ideas that I had is that some conflicts had to be governed by an "advantage." This could be based on the scale of the forces on one side (think Klingon Negh'Var warship versus Federation Intrepid class cruiser), or the technological advancement (for example a Borg cube (which also has scale) or say even a refit Constitution class cruiser against an original model). In any conflict, the advantage will be relative (that is, rather than trying to line up all possible ships on some continuum, the GM should just make a judgment call and assign in the particular situation).

So, how would it work. Again, preliminary, but advantage would do two things principally. It would be ranked on the usual PDQ# scale, Average [0], Good [+2], Expert [+4], Master [+6]. When a ship (or side) in a Starship combat has an advantage rating, first the advantage adds to rolls just like the ship rating in vehicle duels (e.g. S7S pg. 229, 231). Second, during the "violence is done" phase, the rating of the advantage acts like the "one shot kill" style of firearms (see PDQ# pg. 28) and adds the TN of its rating rather than the MOD to the overall damage done by a hit. Thus an "Average" advantage, which would add nothing to rolls, still adds 7 to the damage done on top of the roll made by the captain when compared to the defensive roll of the opposing ship. This makes technological or scale (capital ship versus freighter, etc.) advantage deadly, but still manageable by heroic characters, which is as it should be.

No playtest of this yet. Still working it all through, but it seemed a simple thing to add, while leaving the default the "equal footing" conflict as described in S7S, with the option to use the minion squad rules to deal with enemy fighters, etc. Didn't care too much about fighters in the Star Trek universe, but then the Maquis and the Dominion came along and started using things classed as fighters, so, have to account for them.

Anyway, that is my first thought of a solution for things. I like the idea of allowing for additional vehicle dice in situations for the NPCs. I had definitely considered that in trying to conceptualize an encounter with a Borg cube (although that is more of a roleplaying challenge than a realistic battle). Also, I would, in certain situations, extend the use of the PDQ# chart for really big differences, if I thought starship combat should be allowed at that scale (e.g. Borg cube might have a Master+ rating; having the normal +6 on rolls, but using something like the TN at "Intimidating" or "Impossible" level.

The bottom line has to include flexibility, simplicity and most of all fun.

Will have to see (or anyone else is welcome to try it out and let me know) how an actual play would make this work or not.

lcdarkwood From: lcdarkwood Date: June 4th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
So I wonder if the Millennium Falcon is actually a poor example to look at with your Corvette class.

In Star Wars, individual action is always the center of focus, even in situations where there's teamwork. In A New Hope, when the Falcon gets swarmed by TIEs, the action shifts exclusively to Han and Luke individually blowing up fighters. It's almost like Chewie just flies the ship in a straight line while the two work - you never see him maneuver or anything.

Likewise, in Return of the Jedi, if there are turret gunners in the MF, you never see them and they don't matter. The camera stays exclusively with Lando buzzing about and being hotshot pilot guy. The MF does shoot things, but it's cut to make it look like Lando, and not some anonymous turret gunner, is directly responsible. So, there, the MF is clearly acting just like a starfighter in the dramatic sense, despite its size and multi-person crew.

There's also no focused instance of capital ship combat in the films. They're just background elements or devices used to introduce a change in situation. The novels do play with this a little, but of course, that way lies madness.

So, yeah. This might not be the space opera you're looking for.
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