Sci-Fi BW: Spaceship Battles

So I’ve been working on a Sci-Fi custom setting for BW, and I want there to be spaceship battles with a Star Trek feel; i.e., players with different positions on the ship and lots of diverting power to different areas. I’ve com up with a rough idea of what I want the system to be like, and was hoping for some feedback.

[li]Divert Power
[/li]Divert power is done once per volley. Each ship will have a Power stat, which represents the capabilities of her power plant. The Engineering Officer makes a Engineering check at Ob 1 to distribute power between systems (Engines, Weapons, Shields(divided into Fore, Aft, Port, Starbord) ). This is a linked test (with Positioning, Shields, and Weapons), so success gives an extra Power die to distribute, and Failure gives a +1Ob to all Positioning, Weapon, and Shield tests for the volley (but the dice still get distributed). The obstacle of the Engineering check will go up as the ship takes damage. If a system is distributed 0 dice, it cannot be used.
[/li]Ships get into position. This will be a Pilot check, plus Power Dice distributed to Engines. Advantages will be given for better engines/faster ships; disadvantages for jammed sensors, etc. Ships also have to specify their orientation, and there may be “special” positions like broadsides that give bonuses to attack.
[li]Fire Weapons
[/li]Ships fire upon each other. The roll is Ship weapon skill + Power Dice. Damage is similar to Fight!, where Defender chooses target location and attacker spends successes to aim. Obviously, the defender can’t be hit from behind by a ship that’s in front of him (this will be accounted for in positioning). Shield dice are rolled to mitigate damage. Traitors are subtracted from the Power pool until the end of the volley, 1’s are subtracted from the power pool for the encounter (until the ship is repaired).
[li]Defensive Maneuvers
[/li]If a ship uses “slow” weapons like missiles, her opponent may (at some cost, tbd) take defensive maneuvers to avoid them.

Damage: Ships will take damage somewhere in between characters and materials. Ships can take damage in “zones” (e.g., Hull, Main Systems (Weapons, Power, etc.), Subsystems (Sensors, etc.)). Dice can only be lost from Main Systems. Ships are destroyed by inflicting a MW on its Hull (this should be difficult; players should have to find more interesting ways to win battles than blowing everyone up)

I’ll post more later after I refine the idea or get sugegstions.

This is cool!! I like it!

If I may:

  1. Divert Power - ideally you’ve got players to man all of the stations, and it would be lame in terms of playing a game if a player has to sit out a round because no power got to them. Maybe have Divert Power be an open ended test where extra successes add an advantage (extra dice probably) to wherever the Engineer player chooses. If he gets 3 extra dice, he can divide those 3 however he likes. Maybe there could be another option to “cut power” from one section to give a bigger advantage to a more critical area, but this should be a last ditch attempt to keep the shields going when damage is so critical the ship goes to bits if it takes another hit, or something like that. But in general, a player ought to have the dice that their character brings to the table already - and only get bonus above that from the Engineer.

  2. Consider borrowing heavily from Range and Cover for the position, attack, defend, etc. portions (2-4 in your list). Re-theme the actions and use appropriate skills. Or perhaps borrow heavily from the Mouseguard system, where you’ve got 4 basic options (attack, defend, feint, maneuver) where attack does damage by margin of success, defend “heals” damage by margin of success, feint overcomes defend and is otherwise hosed, and maneuver grants margin of success as a bonus to the next roll. Disposition (or Body of Argument as in Duel of Wits) could be considered the sum of the ship’s systems - shields, etc. Maybe when Disposition gets critically low (below half?) the players can decide to start applying their opponent’s margin of success against specific stations within the ship (as penalties to rolls made in that station, up to the number of dice possible at that station), as a way of increasing granularity and also allowing the crew to make tough decisions about what they can live without as they struggle to keep the ship together.

So, say the ship has :
Engineering - provides bonus dice sometimes, can repair the stations
Weaponry - does the attacking
Brdige/Engines - does the maneuvering/feinting
Shields/Hull - does the defending

And let’s say that each station has 3 dice possible. Starting disposition is 10 for the ship as they engage a Klingon Bird of Prey. The Klingons are cloaked of course, which gives a big advantage to maneuver and feint. Captain Kirk is super nervous so he orders Engineering to divert all extra power to shields and they script Maneuver, Defend, Attack, hoping to stay out of the Klingon’s sights long enough to get a good attack off when it decloaks. But the Klingon captain is cunning and knows he needs to capitalize on the strength of his Bird of Prey, so he scripts Feint Attack Maneuver, as he wants to surprise the Enterprise and get off a good shot before scooting away. It’s a devastating flurry of action and the Enterprise is down to Disposition 5. Nuts! In the next volley they take 3 more damage to their Disposition. They could opt to shunt those 3 damage to one or more systems within the ship, taking a penalty on all further rolls from that system until repairs can be effected. It’s likely that it would make ships very hard to outright destroy, but pretty easy to damage. Many fights would probably end with “Ok, ok, we’ve had enough! Stop firing, we surrender!” Which is honestly a far more reasonable end to a fight than the classic Sci Fi “And then it blew up!!! Yeah!!!”

I like your ideas for Divert Power. I think it would be wierd for Shields to be a skill test (I was thinking something more passive, like armor), so I would just hand the shield dice to the captain.

As for maneuvering, I wanted to borrow more from Fight! than Range and Cover because there’s no cover in space. But I think that there’s an advantage in allowing more maneuvers than “close” and “widthdraw”. Maybe players could script a maneuver and an attack each volley. Or maybe players have 2 actions per volley and “advanced” maneuvers such as evasive maneuvers cost 2 actions.

I’m also thinking that the Divert Power test should happen once per exchange, and players can use an action to redistribute the extra power dice. This would include taking the “static” Shield dice and giving them to other systems, or maybe taking power from subsystems to give a small boost to a primary system. This would also allow players to redistribute power in an emergency by forfeiting an action.

I also think that there should be some space between exchanges to do actions like hailing the opponent, fixing internal damage, abandoning ship, etc.

I like Disposition, but I want damage to the ship to feel more like Injuries. Something between our ideas is ships have a “Mortal Wound” (some sum of its system scores). Attacks that get through shields deal damage on a PTGS. When you lose a die from a “wound”, you choose what system to lose it from, up to some max penalty for each system (which could also be the max number Power dice the systen can have). Also, maybe instead of 1’s causing shield dice to be permanently lost, the Captain can “destroy” a shield die to negate a success (but the die is lost until the ship is repaired).

So lets say the Enterprise engages a Bird of Prey. Kirk is in the chair. Engineering rolls 4 successes on Divert Power, and puts 2 in shields (over 4 default sheild dice), 1 in weapons, and 1 in engines. Kirk expects an aggresive, all out attack, so he scripts: Evasive Maneuevers, Maintain/Attack, Maintain/Attack. The Bird of Prey goes all our on weapons in the first volley, but the evasion allows the Enterprise to get away unscathed (shields at 4). In the second volley, the Enterprise rolls terrible on weapons (0 successes) but manages to Maintain distance. But the Bird of Prey has another attack, and this one gets 6 successes. Yikes. The Enterprise rolls 1 Shield success, and chooses to burn 3 Shield dice and takes a Light wound. Kirk applies -1D to weapons. Kirk is worried now, as there are no shield dice left for the final volley. He orders Engineering to take power from weapons and subsystems and adds two dice to shields, scrapping his scripted actions for the third volley. Luckily, the Bird of Prey botches its attack roll this volley. In between volleys, Kirk orders some engineering crew to take care of damage. But then, alarms go off! It seems the Klingons have sent a boarding party! (I’m not sure how boarding will work, but the system wouldn’t be complete without it)

Blasted Klingons, beaming a boarding party onto the Enterprise while her shields are down!!!

I like where you’re going. Should make for a fun way to play out a space battle!! And it seems pretty easy to port over to different settings, too. Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica…

The main difference between Star Trek and BSG or Star Wars (in terms of space combat) is the presence of small craft (TIE fighters, X-wings, Raiders, Vipers, and the like). In BSG, they exist because the ships themselves only have missiles and defensive weapons (no giant lasers). Basically, the waves of raiders and vipers are the primary weapons. Star Wars is less clear, but the movies put little emphasis on space combat for large ships; it seems that most capital ships are more like fighter and troop carriers to assist in planetary assault. I think if you wanted to capture the feel of these games (and BSG would be really fun to play because of the politics), you would need very different rules.