Monday, May 16, 2011

Thoughts on a starship campaign

While one-off battles are fun (especially if there is some sort of in-game backgroud to justify the fight beyond the usual line-'em-up-and-knock-'em-over), these games often devolve into meatgrinders where players throw all their assets away on the last turn because they have nothing left to lose.  I'd like to run or play some games that reflect "reality"--whether historical or fictional--a little more closely; matches where one side might flee to fight aother day when its commander realizes they are outclassed or where an admiral pulls ships out before they become too damaged because there's another battle looming.

I'm thinking of two approaches for the starship campaign I'd like to run:  The first is a traditional multi-sided affair in which each player allocates a certain amount of ships to attack and/or defend multiple objectives; I envision this type of game will eventually end with one side victorious over the others.  Call this choice the Admiral's Game (an extension of this is a system for shipbuilding, industrial development, and technology research: the Accountant's Game--fun, but too much work for me to actually run).

The second idea is closer to a traditional role-playing game--each player starts as the commander of a small starship and--with time, effort and a bit of luck--can get promoted to, buy or capture larger and larger ships, and eventually lead a squadron or even a fleet.  Such a campaign has no specified endgame, and could run indefinitely.  This would be the Captain's Game.

As I'm not sure which game I want to use for starship combat, I need to make the campaign system rules-independent.  But it should easily translate across rulebooks.  Here's what I have so far: Each player starts with one captain.  Each captain has four attributes: spacefaring, crew, leadership, and luck. 
  • Spacefaring refers to all skills: piloting, navagating, electronics, shooting, and so on.  This might affect initial setup, initiative, or other scenario-specific factors, depending on the referee.
  • Crew represents the total capacity of the ship's personnel.  This number will start out at 100% and can change during a battle and afterward, depending on a captain's performance.  Note this is an abstract number, as a destroyer at 100% crew has less personnel in absolute numbers than a dreadnought.  Crew percentages below 100 are usually handled by the combat rules; a cew percentage of more than 100 percent will not affect a ship's efficiency, but will help in replacing casualties after a battle or assigning prize crews to captured ships.
  • Leadership is what it says on the tin: it affects how a captain recruits and maintains a crew.  It also affects how well subordinate captains in other ships follow orders, as well as influencing negotiations with nonplayer entities.
  • Luck stands for karma, fate, or script immunity.  Mechanically, this attribute allows a player to reroll a single die roll, once per game, with a modifier equal to the captain's luck.  Alternatively, once per game a player may reroll the opponent's die roll, modifying it by their luck.
Success in battle can increase these characteristics; likewise, poor performance could decrease them.  Beginning captains are not allowed any vessel of destroyer size or larger; this means a starting player gets a scout, corvete, frigate, starbomber or armored pursuit ship.  Successful missions can lead to promotions and larger commands (including multiple craft), or a captain might reflag a captured ship, leaving a trusted subordinate in command of the original vessel.

What do you think?  Does the Captain's Game sound like something you'd be interested in?


Don M said...

Yes indeed!

thedrake70458 said...

Good idea.Star Fleet battles had a similar idea in one of their publications.
I tend to play solo campaigns along the line of your Admirals Game idea (without all the accounting) where will assign certain number of ships and objectives to the campaign and play series of linked scenarios,with some limited options available to each side between scenarios.Keep this on the smaller side since solo.

Lentulus said...

As an interesting mix, you might try both, with the captains of side A being the admirals of side B, and vice versa. Admirals would direct strategic operations, and after a victory have to promote at least one captain that was in the fracas. Players get victory points for both Admiral and Captain successes, so you would want to promote good captains and conduct successful operations, but not so successful that they prevent the success of your own captain-level commands.

Interesting balancing act, and the levels of distrust and backstabbing appropriate to, say, a civil war in a decadent empire.

Sean Robson said...

Great stuff! I agree that pick-up games can get boring after a while, and the immersion and depth that a campaign can bring is much more rewarding. The Captain's game sounds good, but I like the Admiral's game as well.

I once played in a fairly elaborate campaign for FASA's Star Trek Combat Simulator game, which was facilitated on by one of their supplements, the Starfleet Construction Manual, which detailed construction of star bases and ships, so we had to actually replace or repair ships damaged or destroyed in the course of the campaign, and destroying enemy starbases put a real crimp in his starship production.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Yes, but I doubt that I could play it, for I am far away. :(

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Also, what I meant to post to about the first time is that I responded to your "What's in a name?" post.

Capcha: Ficrjuxn. This makes me think of trees and intersections.

pahoota said...

Your posts have got me thinking about a campaign system I tried to come up with last winter. I've revised it and posted it on my blog. It's pretty abstract and simplistic, but I like it.

Andy Strauss said...

Again, your idea in the Captains game is very similar to whats in Battlestations. Check it out, its worth it. I have 150 games of that as GM