Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Traveller: Outer Sectors Report 1 - An Apology

Alex's Trav game started this last Sunday, and it went fairly well.  This was Alex's first time GMing for a group of experienced players, and while there were some rough patches, overall I think fun was had by most.

We did run into some trouble with in-party balance / people feeling useful.  Drew and I both ended up with relatively high-powered characters; he has an ex-marine combat monster with Gunnery for starship combat and Persuade for social situations, and I've got a silver-tongued smuggler (Deception, Stealth, Broker, and Streetwise for social situations, Gunnery for space combat, and...  not much for ground combat, really).  Matt's a pilot-turned-spy with a really high dexterity, so he's a great pilot and a good shot, but lacking on the social front (doesn't speak Human, for one thing).  Tim had a reporter-cop-marine with low-to-average ability scores; he's hewed out a niche as the party medic, and also has Steward and Carouse, so he's good for getting into trouble and finding passengers dirtside, and picked up Sensors and Comms from the skill package so he's a support character in space combat.  Jared, unfortunately, kind of got shafted.  He rolled an archaeologist / engineer; archaeo didn't really come up last session (but should next session), and engineer wasn't terribly useful either, as the only damage we took during space combat was a hull hit, so it couldn't be jury rigged or otherwise fixed in combat.  He's a decent shot and has a laser carbine, so he's dangerous on the ground, though.  Another contributing factor was that we had an NPC patron along for the ride who was also an archaeologist.  After some debate with Alex, we're kinda thinking she might get retconned to just being a minor official, so she's not stepping on Jared's toes too much.  But...

Really the crux of the issue is that Drew and I spent too much time as the focus of events.  I was rolling broker for cargo constantly, as well as getting into trouble with Resistance Organizations and bluffing the crazy guys who took Ms. MacGuffin the NPC hostage.  During starship combat, Drew and I were on the guns, with Tim supporting with Sensor Lock and ECM, Matt dodging and/or lining up shots, and Jared twiddling his thumbs waiting for systems damage.  When ground combat did finally roll around, Drew murderized most of the enemies on round 1 with a well-placed grenade (they forgot about the Dive For Cover reaction - I expect that rule might see play next session), and then the last hostile accidentally blew himself up with his own grenade, denying Matt and Jared the opportunity to get their shots off at him.

So, next session, I for one intend to try to be a little less focal, and I apologize for being a screen-hog last game.  If ground combat happens, I'll be burning my actions to give Leadership initiative bonuses to the rest of the party, plus Stealth to avoid becoming a target, attacks when that fails, and possibly Deception when appropriate.  I'm also backing off the constant Brokering; it was actually kind of a chore, and while it was insanely lucrative (we're up to ~5MCr of profit presently), it just wasn't a whole lot of fun.  I'm thinking now that we have a good pad for the starship mortgage payments, we'll just move bulk, passengers, and the occasional high-value or illegal cargo like radioactives.  In-character, this is the result of my smuggler getting sick of haggling with uptight suit-and-tie types and missing his old, adventurous style of operations - it would seem that part of the draw for him of a life of crime is the excitement.  Ideally, I'm looking for one or two broker rolls per planet, rather than the 6-12 per planet from last session.  Profit margins will suffer, but it's OK, because I have other crazy plans.

For example, the next planet on our itinerary is a mining world with really nasty wildlife.  In particular, there's a variety of man-sized snake which is insanely fast, venomous, and generally deadly.  This world is also low-tech and full of broken terrain, so we're likely to end up travelling by jeep or mule rather than air car (and landing the spaceship at the objective isn't much of an option either, unless we want to level a landing pad first).  If, by some terrifying chance, we happen to meet one of these things...  We should zap it with a stunner (or stun grenade, possibly - we should pick up some of those), stick it in a low berth, and sell it to the highest bidder.  Yes, it's for monetary gain, which we don't really need.  But it'd also be an awesome story and full of plot potential ("Oh noes, we're being boarded by pirate in great force!  We can't repel firepower of that magnitude!  ...  Maybe we should thaw the snake.  Any volunteers for defrost duty?" or "Oh gods it got loose...  Do we tell the passengers?").

Similarly, I think we should also set up a still in the engine compartment.  On the one hand, it would let us turn bulk grain into bulk space moonshine (starshine?), potentially at a profit.  On the other hand, it would also be an excellent RP element, allowing Tim to ply our passengers with copious beverages of dubious origin, permitting us to flood the cargo bay with concentrated alcohol vapors to disable pirates (or just buy them off with booze...), and providing a source of inflammatory weapons in a pinch.  Oh, also a good thing for the customs inspectors to find; give them little victories to throw them off the important crimes.  Good justification for training Carouse during long spaceflights, too.

So, that's kind of what to expect from me - the occasional crazy scheme that may or may not be as risky as it is lucrative, Leadership bonuses in combat, and low-level background speculative trading.  Likewise, we have significant cash reserves that we can dip into to provide Useful Pieces of Tech.  Got your eye on a particular cybernetic enhancement?  We may be able to fund it.  Think we need an armored vehicle to deal with the Giant Death Adders?  We can swing that, if we can find a seller.  I want to support the party, and if generating credits is a good way to do that, so be it, but making money is no longer the main goal.  Doing crazy / adventurous things is (and survival.  Survival's good).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Trav Weapon Traits

Looking at Scoundrel, one of the things I found unusual was the addition of the Mace trait to some weapons.  Weapon traits had not previously been a thing, to my knowledge (I'm sure the Central Supply Catalogue is absolutely full of 'em, but that's not a source we have).  In any case, it got me thinking, so here're some traits and weapons to go along with them.  A bunch of these started during an abortive attempt to convert Dark Heresy to MongTrav - I really like DH's premise (group of dudes working for an Inquisitor hunting heretics) and setting (40k), but their mechanics are a bit baroque.  Trav's mechanics, on the other hand, are nicely slim, but the setting / premise tend to be relatively uniform; group of dudes out for profit in a space westerny setting.  Anyway, got bogged down in the career conversions, but weapon traits are easy.

Finesse - A Finesse weapon is best used to accurate strikes against important body parts.  In the hands of a skilled user, it is exceptionally deadly despite likely having lower base damage than other, similar weapons.  When using a finesse weapon, double the effect of the attack roll for determining the bonus to damage from effect (ex: If you roll a 10 total, that's effect 2.  With a normal weapon, this gives +2 to damage.  With a finesse weapon, this provides instead +4 to damage).  This trait would be applicable to precision melee weapons like stilettos, but was originally an adaptation of DH's Accurate trait, which provided bonus damage on sniper rifles for hits with high effect.

Stiletto - TL2, Range: Melee Small Blade.  Damage 1d6.  Heft -, Mass -.  Cost 30 Cr.  Finesse.

Sniper Rifle - TL7, Range: Rifle.  Damage 3d6, Auto -, Recoil 1.  Mass 5kg, Magazine 5.  Cost 500 Cr, Ammo 10 Cr, Finesse.

Reliable - Reliable weapons are reliably destructive.  When you hit with a reliable weapon, roll damage twice and take the better.  In a D&D conversion, this trait might be used for weapons that roll 2dn rather than 1d(2n), such as the greatsword, which have higher means and lower variances than other similar weapons such as greataxes.

Double-barreled shotgun, Mk2 - TL4, Range: Shotgun.  Damage 4d6, Auto -, Recoil 2.  Mass 3kg, Magazine 1.  Cost 100 Cr, Ammo 3 Cr, Reliable.

Explosive - An explosive firearm fires bullets containing small amount of explosives, which detonate on impact.  While these weapons are banned under the Geneva Convention for use against human targets, there are no such universal restrictions in Trav-land...  When rolling damage with an explosive weapon, you initially roll damage as normal.  For each 6 that comes up on a damage die, roll another d6 and add it to the total damage dealt.  Repeat this for any 6s rolled on the additional dice.  This trait could also be used to model weapons that occasionally spectacularly obliterate targets (like for modeling x3 or x4 crit weapons from D&D).  Another interesting tweak would be to vary the numbers on which dice explode; maybe for an x3 crit, they explode on 6, but for an x4 crit, they explode on 5 or 6.

Bolter - TL11, Range: Assault Weapon.  Damage 4d6, Auto 4, Recoil 1.  Mass 5kg, Magazine 12.  Cost 1000 Cr, Ammo 50 Cr, Explosive.

Bolt Pistol - TL12, Range: Pistol.  Damage 4d6, Auto -, Recoil 2.  Mass 2kg, Magazine 6.  Cost 700 Cr, Ammo 25 Cr, Explosive.

Hazardous - These weapons are dangerous to the user's health.  On a miss with effect -2 or lower, the wielder has managed to injure himself, inflicting a hit (unmodified by effect, but modified by armor) on himself.  As these weapons tend to be unusually damaging, this is often a bad thing.

Chainsaw - TL7, Range: Large Blade.  Damage 5d6, Heft 3, Mass 6kg.  Cost 350 Cr, Hazardous, Explosive.

Lightsaber - TL14, Range: Large Blade.  Damage 4d6, Heft -1, Mass 1 kg.  Cost 15000 Cr and membership of one or more psion orders, Hazardous, Ignores Armor.

I have some more trait ideas, but this serves as a first attempt into the field.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Super Dungeon Explore!

Classes start tomorrow, so people are filtering back into town.  We managed to get together for a game last night, and Ethan had acquired and built Super Dungeon Explore over winter break, so we gave it a shot.  SDE is a dungeon-crawling boardgame with a video-game aesthetic which is kind of endearing (to paraphrase Ethan, "Most companies that make minis are really really grimdark.  These ones are kind of cutesy but also good looking and good price per mini."), though the female PCs...  ah, let's just say that their defenses seem a bit high for the amount of armor they're wearing.  While the rulebook is not particularly clear / well written, Ethan had been spending a lot of time on forums and knew what was up, so we chose PCs (with Matt as the Console / DM) and went for it.

The structure of the game revolves around the PCs trying to destroy the spawn points scattered throughout the dungeon, thereby preventing the Console from placing more monsters.  Every wound taken by anything (PC, monster, or spawn point) advances a counter which determines when the minibosses and final bosses appear.  Additionally, damage inflicted by the PCs advances the loot counter, which awards a draw from the Loot deck every 3 hits or so.  Treasure from chests comes from a separate (better) Treasure deck.  Loot / treasure (stuff?) adds to the various stats of each PC - Attack, Armor, Dex, Will, Actions per Turn, or Movement, in addition to adding special features like a Slow condition on all of your attacks, immunity to some conditions, or special actions.  For example, in the first treasure chest, we found a Horn of Fire that added a green die to Attack and also allowed the holder to create a giant cone o' fire at the cost of two actions.

The dice subsystem deserves some mention, both for how awesome and how annoying it was.  The annoying bit is that the game uses custom d6s in three colors - blue dice have two sides with 1, one with 2, and one with a heart (if you roll a heart on an attack that hits, you heal a wound), while red have higher values and one side with a potion (as with hearts, gives you a potion on a successful hit), and greens have the highest values, plus one with both a potion and a heart.  Pretty much everything is expressed in terms of these dice.  I had a sorceress, for example, with Attack of two blue, Armor of three blue, Dex of...  don't remember, never had to roll it, and Will of one red and one blue.  Buffs and items add dice in the same way; Tim's paladin had an armor buff that increased the Armor of all allies within three squares by 1 blue until end of turn, and by the end of the game, I was suited up in wizard gear for two red and four blue on my Will-based spells.  When you make a check with a stat, you roll the listed dice, your opponent rolls his own for Armor or Dex, usually (most units use Armor to defend, though some use Dex), and whoever has the highest total wins, with ties going to defender.  It's a remarkably simple and easy-to-grasp system, but it's also plenty granular, in that there's a huge range of possible combinations of die colors for different effectivenesses and variances - a unit with like...  six blues for attack will be really swingy, but capable of hitting high-defense characters, while one with just one green will have lower variance and a lower mean, with most critters falling somewhere in between those two extremes.  But, again, the trouble is that it's hard to use one's own dice; you could certainly temporarily relabel / have a conversion table from numerical side values to results based on color, but it'd be a slight pain.

The game balance is also remarkably good.  Matt made some tactical mistakes as Console, though we made a few questionable moves ourselves, as when Ethan split the party to open a second front and try to flank one of Matt's strongpoints - I'd argue that this was actually a good move, but if I hadn't moved to support Ethan at range, it mightn't've gone so well, which is saying something since Ethan was on the verge of death when we fled that room...  and then died twice later.  We'd found a Resurrection Charm that triggered when he was killed by a mini-boss, and then he died again under a relentless pile of dragon whelps while trying to rescue Tim's paladin from a mimic during the final boss fight...  Glisson's support character, whose primary ability was generating and distributing potions (each hero has an ability that can be activated by spending a potion; some, like Tim's massive healing and effect removal, were awesome, and some, like my +Will and Flight, were less so), was also killed by the minibosses, though not before killing one of the pair.  The final boss and the minibosses were serious threats to our survival, and even the kobolds in the second room managed to lay a good bit of hurt down on us.  The game felt really close / skin of our teeth - we ended up having to overextend ourselves into a really nasty position in a desperate bid to down the dragon this turn, punching a hole through the wall of dragon hatchlings to give Jared's ranger a clear shot at the boss.  If he'd been a little less lucky, we'd've been overrun next turn.  The balance between PCs was also pretty good; though each PC had distinct stats, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, everybody was useful.  The paladin provided excellent healing, the +Armor buff, and decent melee, the Barbarian could lay down a ton of attacks really quickly and also regenerated wounds (which was good because we didn't have to heal him as much, but bad because it encouraged him to take lots of damage, which advanced the injury counter to hit the minibosses and bosses before we'd taken out all the spawn points), the Ranger had a ranged burst that was good for hitting foes around cover and an ability to remove status effects (like On Fire), Glisson's potion support powered the Paladinic Healing Engine and was no slouch in melee either, and my Sorceress was for putting damage and negative status effects on the monsters at range.  I was actually relatively useless at the beginning of the game, when we were up against monsters with only 1 Wound (impossible to status-effect; if I hit them, they would die), so that was disappointing, but once we started going up against the dragon hatchlings, which had two wounds, I was suddenly useful, and I felt pretty clutch against the minibosses and boss, who I was causing to drop their highest die roll for both attack and armor (ex: Rex the Kobold Ogre miniboss was rolling two reds for armor, I believe.  If he was under my effects, he'd roll two red, maybe get a 3 and a 1, drop the 3, and end up with 1, which made it much easier for everybody else to hit).  So I was a better late-game character; c'est la vie.  There were also another 4 heroes that we didn't get to play - a teleporting tiefling rogue, a druid with shapeshift into a giant bear, a pyromancer with lots of ranged damage and On Fire conditions, and a dwarf fighter with extra HP and good armor.

Overall impressions - would play again.  One weakness is that PCs, once dead, tend to stay dead and leave that player out of the game until terminated (which can take a while...  we took ~4-5 hours, but we got distracted by sandwiches at one point).  The game feels, to me, much like a cleaned-up, balanced, multiplayer version of Space Hulk With Stuff.  I'd be kind of interested to tweak it to a future / bughunt setting; it would be fairly easy, actually.  The nine heroes could be replaced with modern / sci-fi archetypes; Sniper (ranged point damage), Heavy Weapons Guy (low mobility, lots of attacks at range, suppression fire?), Sarge (potion gen or status effect removal), Medic (wound removal), Joe Grunt (generalist, possibly strong potion ability), Cyborg (melee tank), Demolitionist (area bursts at range, traps / mines, Knockdown), Assassin (backstab, Stealth, teleport, &c), and Firebat (great burnin' cones of fire).  Thanks, TF2.  The core set has five flavors of kobold (weak melee, ranged attack, melee with reach, high-defense buffing melee, and a ranged buffer spellcaster), three of small dragons (one flying, one with two attacks and two wounds but low armor, one with one attack, one wound, and higher armor), one of miniboss, and one big boss.  That's not that many monster stats the would need to be cooked up; from a Space Hulk perspective, you could easily do something like Genestealer Hybrids as kobolds / tier 1 monsters, Gaunts as dragon whelps / tier 2 monsters, Purestrain Genestealers as mini-bosses, and a Carnifex or something as the big boss.  The real trouble would be items; there are a lot of items in that deck...  probably the easiest thing would be to keep using the items as-is and just kinda handwave the flavor text away.  Likewise, chests -> ship's lockers / xenotech lockers.  So that'd be a fun project if we ever exhaust the fun reserves of the core game, though it was mentioned last night that the producing company is working on an expansion where the opposition is giant stony turtles, so it appears that the flexibility is going to continue to expand.  It's clear that the game is meant to be expanded even from the rules that exist already; the Paladin's Smite ability, for example, does extra damage to Demons and Undead...  none of which exist yet.  Likewise, there are some effects (Choke, I think) that nothing inflicts yet, but that there are rules for.  So it's pretty clear that they aim to keep making more stuff, and keep the game fresh.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quotes from 5e Devs, and Starmada Next Fighter Firing

A few aftershocks of the D&D 5e announcement.  EnWorld has a news aggregator up here; this is pretty standard for them with new editions (the site was initially created as a news site for 3e during its development, then developed forums during the Third Age which persisted through its coverage of 4e).  Currently it's mostly little soundbites from the lead devs, but a couple of them look fairly promising (all credit to EnWorld for gathering these):

"The new edition is being conceived of as a modular, flexible system, easily customized to individual preferences. Just like a player makes his character, the Dungeon Master can make his ruleset. He might say ‘I’m going to run a military campaign, it’s going to be a lot of fighting’… so he’d use the combat chapter, drop in miniatures rules, and include the martial arts optional rules." - Mike Mearls
This is a nice idea, though one that might make life difficult for the players during character creation.  It does, however, suggest that the supplement treadmill may be stoppable by DM fiat; if he doesn't choose rulebases from other supplements, then you're good.  It may also eliminate the Grapple Problem - the existence of gross, annoying subsystems that nobody really wants to deal with.  Make 'em optional, and then they're not problems.  Final point here is that miniatures / grids may be optional, rather than required (as they were in 4th and basically were in 3rd for adjudicating AoOs).  Sweet.
 "I don't think 'requiring someone to be a healer' is a sacred cow, but having healers in the game is. I wouldn't want to see D&D do away with healing, but I don't think there's anything keeping us from exploring a version of D&D where players can simply play anything they want, ignoring concepts like role and function when putting together their party. To do so, we would need to take a serious look at the way player resources are allocated in D&D, and make some adjustments to the assumptions behind the design of everything from adventures to encounters to monsters." - Rodney Thompson
This reminds me a lot of Iron Heroes, which was another Monte Cook / Mike Mearls project.  In IH, you had a pool of Reserve Points with a cap equal to your max HP, and you could convert a reserve point into a hit point with one minute of resting.  This creates a dynamic similar to healing surges, but not in-combat and somewhat more realistic.  Healing, by skills or magic, added to your reserve pool, rather than to your HP, so it was useful in terms of extending combat endurance, but not a combat activity, and having a dedicated healer was not a necessity.  Healing was something that you could choose to pursue, but that 1) you didn't have to, and 2) you didn't have to make your sole specialty if you did.  And that was cool.  I hope they draw on IH for inspiration here.  'course, that was what I said during 4e development, too (also by Mearls), and look how that turned out...

Ignoring role and function is also a neat idea, and something we've seen to a limited degree in our Traveller games; sometimes you go "Man, we need an engineer badly", but then when you try to roll an engineer, you often get someone who can engineer, but is also an awesome hacker or ninja too (or all three plus sniper, in the case of Jared's character last campaign).  You're not constrained to your class / career, and everyone from the same career is just a bit different from everyone else.  Contrast with D&D, where if you're the fighter, pretty much all you can do is fight.  Classes in D&D serve as hard limits on the things you can do; in Traveller, careers serve as soft guidelines, where it's not hard to pick up some pretty oddball skills (Thief Remote Ops?  Really?).
 "We'll have more information on the GSL as it relates to the next edition in the near future. Personally, I have a copy of 'The Cathedral & the Bazaar' on the shelf at work.  From my days as a programmer and as a freelance RPG designer, the bulk of my work involved open platforms which did a lot for a game that relies so much on individual creativity." - Mike Mearls
This is good for two reasons.  First, it looks like the devs at least are in favor of something resembling the OGL or opensourcing.  Second, it's an interesting cross-cultural reference to we programmers.  However, Mearls is being really vague here, and it wouldn't surprise me if WotC's legal department got the final say on this one.  On the third hand, the era of D&D's greatest success was marked by the OGL, with the more restrictive GSL significantly decreasing third-party support and arguably sales, so maybe WotC legal will learn from it.  Time will tell.

In non-5e news, got a confirm from Underling on the sequence of actions in the next edition of Starmada here.  When I read the alpha core review rules, which contained no mention of fighters, the change to "all damage is applied immediately during sequential firing" immediately suggested to me that fighter firing could be rolled into the ship firing phase, with an activation being usable either for a squadron of small craft or a single ship.  Turns out I was correct, and Underling also confirms that under alternating movement, an activation can likewise be used on either a ship or a fighter squadron (which makes great sense, when you make alternating movement the default).  I believe that the primary advantage of fighters now will be their ability to move without regard for the Newtonian thrust rules; combined with their (expected) short range weapons, this means you'll probably want to move them last-ish.  This again mixes up the traditional order of movement employed in alternating movement games, as I discussed previously, that you usually want to move your fast, light things first and then move your slow, heavy hitters last.

The most important thing about this change is that it makes point-defense weapons / anti-fighter batteries potentially useful.  If the entire enemy fleet is fighters, and you only have ships with AFBs, you're no longer SOL like you were in AE, where you'd get mauled by the fighters before you had a chance to fire.  Now, they'll attack you, and you'll get a chance to attack back before more of their fighters get to attack.  This also creates an interesting tactical problem when you have a mixed fleet of ships and fighters - do you fire with the fighters first before the enemy gets a chance to fire their AFBs at them, or do you use your ships first?  Probably situational, but it's an extra wrinkle in a system where this wasn't even a question before.

So, I like this change a lot.  First, it simplifies the rules by removing the fighter phase.  Second, it solves the much-maligned AFB problem of the previous edition.  Third, it introduces an interesting choice or series of choices, which the game really needs more of.  Finally, I like being right in my predictions.  When I said back in December that I expected the new edition to fix fighters, this is exactly what I had in mind, and MJ12 has not disappointed.

Monday, January 9, 2012

5e Is Coming

Welp, it's official.  Wizards announced that 5e development is definitely in progress through Mike Mearls, rendering much speculation on Enworld correct.  The sacking of Rich Baker and bringing Monte Cook back on (and the fact that they've had him writing Legends and Lore for a while now, with some ideas that sounded very new-edition-esque) were both suggestive, but this takes the cake.  Don't take my word for it; read it here, and give them some feedback on what you think should be in it and what it should be like.

This is probably a necessary step for Wizards, in light of several things I read recently on EnWorld this morning.  This article, in particular, suggests that Wizards / D&D were in significant peril following the failure of DDI's virtual tabletop feature.  Thus, in order to keep the D&D brand in Wizards' hands and alive, something had to give.

So that's...  an interesting and not-unexpected sign.  Sadly, I fear that I will not partake in 5e.  The issue I have is really with WotC's publishing strategy of supplement bloat (which was made even worse under 4e's "everything's core" philosophy).  To quote...  well, myself, in a speculation thread on Enworld:

WotC has lost me as a customer as a result of their supplement-driven mentality. If they produce a core that I like, they'll run it into the ground with player content supplements. As a player, I don't have the disposable income to buy said supplements (be they books or subscriptions) to keep up with the Joneses, and as a DM, I'm not willing to deal with the crap that comes with said supplements (mechanically if allowed, dramatically if disallowed). If they produce a core that I don't like, then I could care less. It's essentially a business model problem; they could do wonderful, wonderful game design (hypothetically), but a constantly expanding game is something I have no interest in anymore. But that's what they'll build, because that's where the money is.
So...  best case, they'll release something superior to 4e, keep the brand alive, and keep producing more gamers.  Like it or not, D&D is kinda the flagship tabletop RPG, and as it goes, so goes the hobby to some degree.  Worst case, they'll refragment the playerbase, lose lots of money, kill the brand, and the hobby will die with it as a commercially viable (and therefore living, growing) entity. Pathfinder would then be the last best hope...  which would be OK mechanically, but it doesn't have the name recognition of "D&D", and I don't think it could save the hobby.  Likewise, the various other 'largish' RPGs like White Wolf often lack the mainstream appeal of D&D, and are often not found in bookstores like 4e and Pathfinder.  So...  I hope it does well, but not because I intend to play it.

In other news, the development of the Trailblazer Monster Book is bogged down in the lycanthropes, but is pretty much complete other than that.  They're currently looking at a release this spring.  That one I probably will buy; the art's going to be awesome, and maybe they'll fix some of the bugs we hit using 3.x monsters with TB (still sorry about the impossibility of beheading that hydra, guys).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Starmada Next 4 and some Trav stuff

Not a whole lot of news on Starmada development; the devs have gotten kind of quiet in hopes of having some things in the book be surprises when it's released.  They're doing final playtesting now, and it should still release in January, but we're not sure just when in January.  The only interesting thing I've learned recently is that the Escort trait turns the ship possessing it into a line-of-sight blocker, meaning that escorts can screen more important vessels from enemy fire.  At present, escorts also block friendly fire, however.  They should still be useful under alternating movement, though, since you could move a capital ship, have an enemy move to attack it from out of its firing arcs (ie, somewhere where it cannot retaliate well), and then interpose an escort on a later move.  They would be a clusterf*ck with pre-plotted movement, though.

This introduces an interesting subversion of the standard alternating movement protocol.  In previous games my family played with alternating, the optimal strategy was to delay moving your heavy hitters until absolute last, with light ships serving as a pad so that your enemy would have to position their big ships before you did.  This puts your heavy ships into the best places both to survive and to deal damage to the enemy, which saves you points and costs them.  From what I understand, this is also the standard strategy in BattleTech, where alternating movement is also the rule.  However, with Escort, there is now an incentive to move heavies earlier-than-last and to delay moving light ships, which is a neat twist.

Alex has also launched an Obsidian Portal site for his Traveller game next semester, so I've been doing Trav work again.  Helped Drew roll up a character last night, and debugged a trade spreadsheet that I pulled down from the Mongoose Traveller Aids yahoo group.  There was a bug which used the wrong indices for lookups of purchase and sale modifiers for speculative cargo.  Fixed version is available here, and is also up on the MgTAids page.  I also put together a (kinda ugly) spreadsheet to filter illegal items by government type, available here.

I've also been thinking about weapons.  First, I'd really like to see a weapon modification system for Mongoose Traveller, which would  allow you to take a base weapon (gauss rifle, say) and then alter it in more-or-less balance-preserving ways, where each gain has commensurate loss.  For example, +ammo capacity, +weight (large, heavy assault drum magazines), or +damage, -ammo (larger than standard calibre, but fewer shots per cartridge - this is actually the tradeoff between the Gauss Rifle and the MagRail Rifle in Mercenary).  It'd be an interesting project, but a bit more work than I'm up for presently.

My other primary weapon thought is on shotguns, namely that Gun Combat (Shotgun) is...  not fantastic.  All other gun combat skills have at least two weapons available to them (more if you count TL variants of the same weapon), and most of those have some variation in law levels (except Energy Rifle; Energy Pistol has stunners vs. laser pistols, Slug Rifle has Accelerator Rifle vs Gauss Rifle, and Slug Pistol has pretty much everything vs Gauss Pistol, which is banned earlier due to auto).  Shotgun has exactly one weapon.  Not really OK.  Since the base shotgun is legal up to law level 6, it looks like the shotguns category needs an early banned version.  I present for your consideration the Assault Shotgun, based on the AA-12 and the Pancor Jackhammer.

Assault Shotgun: TL7, Range Class: Shotgun.  Damage 4d6, Auto 4, Recoil 2.  Mass 6 kg or 7kg with extended magazine.  Magazine 12 or 24.  Cost 1000 Cr, Ammo 20 or 40 Cr.

Recoil's really going to hurt on full auto...  but it's a nice capability to have, and also renders the weapon illegal at LL4 as a light assault weapon.   And another just for kicks:

Double-Barrel Shotgun: TL4, Range Class: Shotgun.  Damage 4d6, Auto 2, Recoil 2.  Mass 3kg.  Magazine 2.  Cost 100 Cr, Ammo 3 Cr.

That's right folks - Auto 2.  No use for firing on full auto, but it does let you burst for +2 damage and +1 recoil.  It might be realistic for the double-barrel to take two minor actions to reload...  but let's be fair here.  It's a pretty awful weapon, and you're going to be reloading a lot if you decide to use it.  It really doesn't need the extra handicap.