December 2017 - Roll For Combat: Your Friendly Neighborhood Actual Play Podcast

Talking Combat 014: Use Caution When Opening

the-crate-roll-for-combat

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 014: Crate Expectations.

After two straight sessions of dealing with space dogs, it’s refreshing to get back into explore mode. But we start with a lively debate about what to do about the mysterious crate.

Full disclosure: either that debate went on a lot longer and Steve edited it down, or it just felt like it went on a lot longer at the time – I have this recollection of it going on long enough that I had to get a new soda halfway through.

I won’t rehash the arguments in their entirety, but the choice boils down to: do we hide behind plausible deniability, deliver what we were asked to deliver, and let the consequences flow downstream; or do we take some responsibility and open the box, even if that might risk losing our pay and/or making our current benefactor mad with us? Are we by-the-book professionals (“You are fully licensed and bonded by the city, aren’t you, Mister Plow?”) or follow our ethical compass, perhaps in the name of serving a greater good, but perhaps torching a perfectly good gig?

Partly as a personal choice, part as a roleplaying call on Tuttle’s part, I’m currently on the side of “FedEx or UPS wouldn’t open up your package; why would we?” Tuttle wouldn’t want some random person looking through his research, so he’d probably come down on the side of doing the job he was asked to do. (Falling back on alignments, upholding a morally ambiguous contract sounds like a pretty Lawful Neutral take.) Having said that, I still acknowledge there’s something shady about having us smuggle a package off a ship under quarantine that doesn’t sit right. I don’t get a sense that Gevalarsk Nor is Evil-with-a-capital-E, so I’m not really worried him trying to wipe out Absalom with space plague, but I’ll concede that Rusty and Mo’s concern is at least generally valid.

I totally didn’t expect Hirogi to be the one to side with me, though – Chris tends to be all about exploring anything that might be a source of loot, so I assumed he’d want to dive right into the crate. I would’ve thought he would have been the advocate for “lock CamBot in a closet, bust the crate open, steal the contents, and then claim it was empty.” One of life’s little surprises that he’s on my side.

The exploration reveals no further akatas (thank goodness) but still plenty of signs of their presence. And… we find the flamethrower. Don’t worry, people; I’m going to be lobbying hard for CHDRR to get the flamethrower at some future date. It makes tactical sense since he’s usually near the front of the fight, but let’s be honest… “CHDRR With A Flamethrower” is one of those phrases like “Hobo With A Shotgun” that just has to be willed into reality. I’m not worried about it right this second because our primary foe is flame-resistant and it only has enough ammo for two shots, but long-term… it’s gonna happen, even if I have to get petulant and buy a second flamethrower to make it happen. (“I’ll make my own flamethrowing drone… with blackjack and hookers!”)

Somewhat overshadowed by Dog Metal Nuggets and dreams of flamethrowing drones, we also find our first concrete signs that we may not be the only humanoids left on the ship: locked doors, signs that some of the other cabins have already been searched. Is that a rival crew scavenging or looking for answers? Survivors who managed to lock themselves up somewhere to wait for help?

Annnnnnd then Mo takes a laser to the face. A crit, no less. If there is a survivor, apparently it’s the kid from Home Alone.

I think this was a twofold failure. First, I think the idea that there were survivors kind of took over and we got a little too eager to be heroic rescuers and should have been a little more cautious about the first closed door we encountered on the entire ship. But also, we haven’t really run into a trap yet, so I think we kind of underestimated that as a possibility. In the fantasy setting, you tend to see certain situations as potential trap locations. In a sci-fi setting, maybe we’re not quite as familiar with the warning signs yet. Also, it doesn’t fit as easily into the genre – you can’t exactly build the traditional 10-foot spiked pit into a spaceship. Well… not easily, anyway.

So Mo survives (just barely), and to add insult to injury, no actual people to interact with, and the stuff the trap was protecting wasn’t even that useful. A couple healing serums that don’t even make up for the damage Mo took, med patches that might help with Rusty’s disease, and we get our introduction to fusion seals… through a fusion seal that… only works on one weapon in the entire galaxy, which we don’t have anyway? Are we reading that right?

I will say the system itself seems pretty cool. I think the idea of doing away with plus-es in favor of special abilities is pretty neat and I LOVE the idea that you can move your seals from one piece of gear to another if you find one you really like. But the idea that a seal only works on a narrow range of weapon levels – I get the concept (I suppose it’s not that different from gem slots in WoW), but I worry it might lead to too many situations like this one where you can’t find the right combination of seals and weapons, and you might end up with too much stuff you can’t use. But maybe this will be the exception, not the rule, and future seals will be more useful.

And that’s where we have to leave it for this session. Rusty is still stuck with space rabies, and Mo is covered with soot and grill marks. We’ve still got one more closed door to deal with before heading toward the bridge. Will we find survivors? New enemies? Will Rusty succumb to space rabies, forcing us to take him behind the barn and shoot him? Stay tuned to find out.

As always feel free to join us on social media and join the conversation? What do you think we should do about the Eoxian crate? What do you think of the fusion seal system? Who (or what) should CHDRR light on fire first? Drop us a line and let us know your thoughts; and as always, thanks for listening.

014: Crate Expectations

the crate

The team discusses the pros and cons of opening a huge box on a quarantined spaceship filled with rabid space dogs, they slowly explore the rest of the Acreon, and somebody learns a painful lesson on checking for traps.

Also this week, GM Stephen discusses the awesome responsibility of a GM and how their power as the narrator can shape the game, and how PCs must also be responsible for their role in the story.

Plus new contest information! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Christmas

Roll-For-Combat-Holiday-Card

Santa Jason presents a very special edition of Talking Combat…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, on board the Hippocampus
The team had just returned from fighting a Space Krampus.
The stockings were hung by the airlock with care,
Hirogi’s was heavier… wait, that’s not fair!

The RFC team were nestled all snug in their beds,
Wondering why GM Steve so badly wanted them dead;
Tuttle in his lab coat, and CHDRR in the charger,
With some irradiated fungus, waiting to grow larger,

When suddenly the proximity alarm started to screech,
But Mo merely mumbled, “I’m trying to sleep.”
Tuttle went to the sensors to see what was up,
Grabbed the “space coffee” and poured a new cup.

The moon cast a fantastic glow on the bridge
So Tuttle adjusted the IR filters just a smidge,
When what to his wondering eyes should appear,
But a tiny space cruiser, pulled by eight… reindeer?

Tuttle thought to himself “that seems out of place,”
“Reindeer can’t survive the vacuum of space.”
But the driver’s next trick would really astound,
As he called to his reindeer, despite there being no sound.

‘Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!”
“On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!”
Tuttle thought: “one of humanity’s most puzzling features,
Was to give unique names to clearly identical creatures.”

Tuttle thought for a second about switching to guns.
Nine distinct targets? That might be kind of fun.
But then the sensors showed the presence of loot,
So Tuttle decided to wait and not shoot.

Then Tuttle heard an ominous CLANK on the hull,
And he briefly regretted not sending a distress call.
Transporters engaged with their tell-tale sound,
And some fat dude materialized… at least 300 pounds!

He was dressed in red, from his head to his foot,
But thanks to transporter malfunction, was covered in soot.
Tuttle switched off the safety with an audible click,
Pointed his pistol, and said, “let’s see those hands and no tricks.”

Santa paused for a moment, pipe clenched in his teeth,
He wasn’t used to being treated like a common thief.
He said, “Hold on, you’ve got the wrong idea, kid,
I’ve got some stuff for you, and I’ll overlook what you just did.”

Tuttle said: “Overlook what? CHDRR’s ready to pound,
For such a big drone, his speed will astound.
If you’ve got presents, I’m happy to take them,
If you’ve got some for the team, I’ll go and wake them.”

Santa thought for a sec, and said, “Let’s stay nice and silent,
That Mo’s got a temper, he’ll probably turn violent.
I’ve got treasure for you and I’m happy to give it,
But there’s no time to chat; there’s an armada to visit.”

So he put down his sack, and started his tasks;
Grenades, and guns, and healing serums, in flasks!
Lab gear for Tuttle, and what’s even better,
Several large crates, with new mods for CHDRR.

As soon as he finished, he gave quite a shout,
And used the ensuing confusion to beam back out.
Leaving one final gift standing in his place,
An EMP pulse, so the Hippo couldn’t give chase.

Santa’s ship unlatched; just like that, he was gone,
Except for the scrambled message that came over the comms;
“Merry Christmas, RFC, your antics were droll,
But next year, I think I’m giving you coal!”

Talking Combat 013: Live, Dogs, Repeat

Akata

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 013: Hair of the Dog.

This week, let’s talk about cannon fodder and The Slog.

I have to admit I struggled a little with what to write this week because if you look at the broad strokes of this week’s episode – explore the ship, fight space puppies, struggle with grenade-throwing… it’s pretty similar to last week’s episode. (Cue the Itchy and Scratchy theme music: “they fight, and fight, and fight and fight and fight…”)

At first, I figured the obvious choice was to dive into the differences, figure out what was new about this week and focus on that. But the more I thought about it, sometimes the sameness is part of the game too, right? Sometimes you’ve got these stretches where you have to fight what feels like the same battle over and over. To be fair – I don’t think TWO battles against the space puppies puts us into that territory yet, but it does make me think of other campaigns where it’s happened and of the topic in general.

The days of the Keep On the Borderlands “grab-bag” style dungeon where you meet a different creature in each room are mostly gone; most adventures have a story and a theme tying them together. And let’s be clear that that’s mostly a good thing – I’d much rather play an adventure with a cohesive story than, “you open the door, and there’s a… (closes eyes, flips to random page of Bestiary)… rust monster”.

However, the “downside” of a cohesive story and an overarching theme is that it imposes a bit of uniformity on encounters. Whether it’s orcs, lizardmen, fire elementals – or in this case space puppies – the story makes more sense if the lesser critters fit the theme and aren’t picked at random off a Shoney’s buffet.

The first time you fight that new creature? Everything’s new; you’re learning what they can do as you go, you feel the risk of a new challenge. Cool as hell.

The second time? You’re probably still working on refining your technique, seeing what you can improve on from the first time, and you still have to stay on guard because maybe the bad guy still has a trick or two it didn’t show during the first fight. Still pretty cool.

Battle six or seven? It’s like when you were playing with your Star Wars figures and “spiced things up” by putting Lando Calrissian’s cape on Greedo. IT’S A WHOLE NEW CHARACTER, DAMNIT!

So let’s acknowledge there’s the potential that you can end up in this groove where it starts getting pretty mechanical: your characters have the same basic tools, facing the same basic foes; it starts to feel like the only difference from encounter to encounter is resource management and the randomness of how the dice fall. Sometimes it’s a challenge to spice that up and keep it fresh.

Obviously, the one thing a GM can do to mix things up is vary the monsters, but that only goes so far. One ogre gets loose in the orc dungeon? Sure, I can believe that. After the third “chance” encounter, it starts to break immersion, and you start to wonder what sort of half-assed operation the Big Bad is running here. Is he operating some sort of Evil Petting Zoo on the side?

The other thing I’ve seen work from the GM side is to mix in a soft skill challenge to keep the encounters from getting too repetitive. If you’ve got to take a break from the fights to traverse a cavern, or find a secret door, or read some runes in an obscure language… even that little break can help. Probably helps if it’s not so difficult it becomes a show-stopper and becomes its own source of frustration.

The players don’t always have a lot they can do to mitigate such circumstances, but there are a few things.

In a bigger, sprawling dungeon, I suppose you can go looking for a different sort of fight. I doubt that applies here – the Arceon just isn’t that big, and there seems to be one main path to the bridge. But in other games, you get bored fighting what’s to the east, go fight what’s to the west for a while.

I suppose you can play around with roles and tactics in the party up to a point, but that has limits. I am NOT volunteering to have Tuttle tank these dogs with his knife. Change is good. Dying because you’re playing like an idiot is not.

The other thing our group has historically done in other games is pick up the pace and push our resources by fighting out at the end of our rope. You can’t change WHAT you’re fighting, but you can make the challenge more intense by running your spells and healing serums right up to the red line. I’m not sure we’re quite ready to do that here because we’re still learning these characters and the system, but you may yet see us do it down the road.

(Best recent example of this: if any of you have ever played the Emerald Spire, there’s a “thieves’ den” level, and we basically turned that entire level into one running fight. Sure, I think there were a couple moments where people dropped and had to be revived mid-fight, but it left us no time to get bored with the mostly-anonymous archer dudes we were fighting.)

The good news is that in this campaign, we’re not into the Slog yet. We’re still in that phase where the space dogs are relatively new, and we’re refining our techniques.

In particular, from my standpoint, Tuttle got to use his new Overcharge ability (add 1d6 of damage, but each shot takes 3 charges) that he got at Level 2. In the first battle, I had originally dismissed using the laser pistol entirely since the akatas were immune to fire; however, I thought about it between sessions, and if I pump my shots up, a good roll might clear the DR and do similar damage as the knife (1d4) anyway. Plus? ZERO chance of space rabies. And as far as battery charges, I have two on me, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason we couldn’t retreat to the Hungry Hungry Hippocampus to recharge if we had to. So it seems like it’s worth doing even if I occasionally roll low and do no damage.

Especially since I seem to suck at grenades. I mean, yeah, the corridor was so narrow my miss turned into a hit anyway, but still… I only needed a 5 to hit and still missed. Seriously?

Toward the end of the session, we find Gevalarsk Nor’s cargo, and… well, that gets interesting, but we’ll have to save it for next time. In the meantime, feel free to drop us a line and let us know what you think. Care to hazard a guess what’s in the crate? Feel like letting us know what you do to keep your games interesting when the cannon fodder fights start getting a little too paint-by-numbers? Drop us a line and let us know.

And ohbytheway, since Hanukkah just ended and Christmas is right around the corner, I just wanted to say thanks again for listening these past few months, and I hope whatever holiday(s) you’re celebrating are happy ones.

Or… that you at least get good presents. Lucrative is good too.

013: Hair of the Dog

Dead Suns Akatas

The team tests the theory that the best cure for space rabies is fighting more space dogs. Rusty and Hirogi haggle over gun rental rates, Tuttle fakes his way through Grenades 101, and Mo tries to come up with an appropriately heroic name for his weapon.

Also this week, GM Stephen discusses “taking it easy” on PCs when starting a new gaming system and is it better to kill a PC outright or just horribly maim them for life?

Plus more contest information! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 012: Always Spay and Neuter Your Space Dogs

Akata

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 012: Who Let the Dogs Out?

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Steve’s rules tips, but I’ll throw my two cents about whether Steve is “for the monsters” or not.

There’s Rational Me, and there’s Emotional Me.

Rational Me recognizes that what Steve is “for” is good story moments and that sometimes comes across as being pro-monster. Steve gets excited when something interesting is about to happen, and a lot of times, what’s “interesting” is the party getting pushed to its limits by an encounter. So he’s not explicitly pro-monster; he just knows some big moment is coming and gets excited to see how it all plays out. The fact that it occasionally comes across as being happy we’re about to die? Pure coincidence.

Emotional Me? Full disclosure – Emotional Me sometimes wants to reach through the screen and strangle him. Every time he says “you’re not going to like this” with a gleeful twinkle in his voice (usually right before a crit) I lose a few millimeters of enamel grinding my teeth waiting for him to get it over with. Basically, I turn into Arnold in Predator: “JUST DOOOOO EEET! I’M RIGHT HEAAAAAH!”.

To summarize: most of the time, I recognize that Steve’s not bad, he’s just drawn that way. But sometimes, in the moment, I forget. We’re only human. Or ysoki, in this case.

So anyway… on to the game action. Dogfights. Last week, it was a Snoopy vs. Red Baron space-combat dogfight; this week, it’s actually fighting against space dogs. DO YOU EVEN WORDPLAY, BRO?

Big picture, it’s nice to see some actual monsters. Up until this point, we’ve been dealing mostly with humanoid types, so there’s been a little bit of a nagging feeling that we haven’t been squeezing every last drop out of the sci-fi setting. The undead guys pushed the envelope a little, but space dogs that hibernate in cocoons and then come out to feed? Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about.

I’ll also admit it’s nice to get back to the concept of a “dungeon” crawl, which is what this sweep-the-ship mission is shaping up as. Mixing it up with the gangs and investigating the murder was fun, but there’s nothing like exploring a labyrinth room-by-room, kicking asses and claiming treasure.

And yes, it dawns on me that those are two almost completely contradictory sentiments – on the one hand, I want more of the unknown regarding what we’re fighting; on the other hand, I want the familiarity regarding the general structure of the mission. Don’t ask me to explain it rationally — I’m not sure I can.

Anyhow… the good news? Well, the space puppies don’t seem to have any sort of ranged attacks, so selfishly, it’s mostly a matter of keeping Mo or CHDRR between Tuttle and the dogs. And definitely put me down as pro-“creatures whose husks are a form of currency”. I tip my cap to you, Paizo.

The bad news: they’re resistant to fire, so my gun isn’t much good, and space rabies. Yeah, yeah, I know… “void death”… it’s SPACE RABIES, dammit! I REALLY don’t want to have to get in there and mix it up with the knife – aside from the damage itself, to borrow from Austin Powers, fortitude saves aren’t my bag, baby.

The fight doesn’t go too badly, but it’s a little unnerving that Mo seems like the only one able to score major damage against them. I’m not sure how it’s going to go if we run into more of them at a time – picking them off one or two at a time seems tolerable, but “packs of 3 to 11” gives me a little shiver down the spine.

Grenades seem like they’d be the great equalizer in this sort of fight, but they only do 1d6 of damage, and if they’re strength-based, that’s going to be kind of rough for everyone except Mo.

And that doesn’t even count for the disease – if we start failing some fort saves, we could find ourselves in a mess pretty quick. I’m not sure which is scarier – the disease itself or the lack of tools to deal with it. I know they de-emphasized the role of a dedicated healer, but disease seems like one of the few places where it would still be nice to have one.

At least we now have some sense of what happened on board the ship. I assume the space dogs killed the crew, or maybe there are survivors locked in some other part of the ship that we have yet to discover. The fact that controls are locked out on the bridge makes it feel like maybe someone was waiting to be rescued, but I guess we’ll just have to work our way to the bridge and find out. Though that still doesn’t explain how the dogs got on board. Accident? Did someone smuggle them on board to scuttle the mission?

So there’s our marching orders for next time – continue to work our way to the bridge, try and find further signs of what happened, maybe look for survivors. I assume while doing all of that, we’ll also come across Gevalarsk Nor’s cargo and more detailed information about the Drift Rock in the process. We still have a job to do, after all.

As usual, feel free to drop us a line and let us know your thoughts. Are you looking forward to getting your first disease?  (Boy, let me find another way to phrase that….) Do you have a GM who’s a little too pro-monster for your liking? Give us a holler and join the conversation!

Help Roll For Combat Name Their Skittermander!

roll-for-combat-skittermander

The guys at Roll For Combat are about to start playing some Starfinder Society and we managed to get our hands on a Skittermander boon (listen to future shows to learn how you can get a Skittermander SFS of your own!). We need your help in naming our Skittermander character.

Check him out! Isn’t he cute! Wouldn’t you like to hear a rough voice of one of our regulars playing a cute little Skittermander?

If you have an idea for a name for our Skittermander, please send your Skittermander name to:
contact@rollforcombat.com
. You can also enter your Skittermander name here as well. If you name is chosen, we’ll send you a custom Roll For Combat t-shirt and use your name on the show! Good luck!

012: Who Let the Dogs Out?

Akata Battle

The team boards the Arceon and gets a rude welcome from the new inhabitants, a pack of what can loosely be described as space dogs. Rusty’s ability to stay out of the thick of the fight finally runs out, and the team has their first encounter with Starfinder’s new disease system. That’s right… space rabies!

Also this week, GM Stephen discusses how to best prepare for large encounters with multiple creatures with unique abilities.

Plus this week we announce the start of a brand new contest! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!

Talking Combat 011: The First Starfighter

roll-for-combat-starfinder-starship-combat

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 011: Spaceship!

I’ll start, as usual, by adding a few comments to Steve’s GM tips, regarding how far one should “dumb down” powerful bad guys. When you combine an enemy, who is a lot higher level and hits a lot harder with the perfect information the GM has access to… yeah, sometimes it can feel a little unfair. And up to a point, that’s part of the challenge – beating those long-ish odds is how you get that sense of accomplishment; that’s where that story you’re still remembering months later comes from. But sometimes, the party just doesn’t have the right mix of skills or something gets missed along the way to that pivotal encounter, and asking players to charge into a slaughter because that’s what’s on the page doesn’t make sense either.

As a player, I guess what I look for is one of two things: either give me an honest chance to win the fight, or offer me an “out” – either find a way to drop a hint before the battle that this is going to go badly, or maybe offer a window during the fight where the bad guy lets up and gives the party a chance to run. If I ignore the hint and get killed… that’s on me for being stupid. But if I walk into a buzzsaw encounter with NO indication and no way to get out of it, that doesn’t just kill the game currently being played, but it can feel arbitrary and sour the player-GM relationship overall.

The fight Steve mentioned in Carrion Crown was a slightly different problem insofar as it reached a boring stalemate. We couldn’t beat the guy because he could phase into the wall and even when he was in the open, we didn’t have enough tools to hit incorporeal creatures consistently (I think we had access to Ghostbane Dirge, but at one round per level, it just wasn’t enough). On the other hand, the bad guy couldn’t finish us because he ultimately couldn’t leave the room he was in, and all we had to do was run back down a hall and rest up. To frame it terms of my model – Steve DID give us the out, but then instead of trying something new, we kept coming back and trying the same basic thing (with a few small variations) a few times in a row. So I actually put that on us as the players, but Chris did not see it that way at the time.

So… spaceship combat.

Maybe I’ve been guilty of overselling it a little, but I have to admit I’ve been looking forward to this because, more than anything, this is what’s new about Starfinder. I mean, yes, some of the various D&D editions have rules sketched out for vehicle combat, but they tended not to get used too often because, for the most part, vehicles tended to be too far outside the fantasy box.

Yet, while it’s new, there’s also something classic about it too. While we were playing this session I had flashbacks to some of the old Avalon Hill wargames my brother and I used to play – Bismarck leaps to mind as one I played a lot – as well as games like Car Wars and Ogre. Similarly, some of the older naval combat games I played on the PC… The Ancient Art of War At Sea, Sid Meyer’s Pirates, and so on. Yeah, it’s space instead of water, and there’s not nearly as much emphasis on setting up a perfect broadside (at least until Steve gives us the keys to Galactica), but it felt familiar in that way.

What didn’t feel familiar? Being excited about going second. It’s a weird sensation. There, I said it.

Since Day One, there was never really any doubt Tuttle was going to be the engineer/science officer, so I studied those rules pretty carefully. “Science Rat” was the character concept; might as well lean into it all the way. My initial read was that the Science Officer is the more useful position early in fights, and Engineer becomes more useful later once you start taking damage. I think that’s still basically accurate, with a few minor revisions, as well as just learning to play it smarter.

I do think Engineer remains mostly a role to shift into once the fight has started to develop. Two of the three skills (Patch and Hold It Together) revolve around mitigating critical damage, which… if you don’t have any damage to fix, you’re standing around with your thumb up your butt. But in fairness, the third skill (Divert) is pretty evergreen – among other things, you can use it to increase speed (engines), regenerate shields (shields… duh) or change 1s to 2s on damage rolls (weapons). And you get to scream CANNA GIVE YE ANYMORE, CAP’N!, which never gets old. Or maybe it will. I plan to find out at some point.

The science skills? Scan is pretty much an opener for a round or two and then you probably never use it again. It’s good to get some initial information about speed, hit points, weapons, etc. but it’s the definition of diminishing returns. If you’re scanning the contents of the cargo hold while people are shooting at you, you’re doing it wrong. (Tuttle had to get four doctorates to get that nugget of knowledge and you’re getting it for free. You’re welcome.) Balance Shields – basically equalizes the remaining shield points between all four quadrants — seems like it could be more useful on a more powerful ship; on the Hippo, where we’re only shuffling 5 points of shields per quadrant around? Not so much.

To satisfy my curiosity (and maybe yours), I took a look ahead at the advanced skills to see how they change the dynamic. Basically, each role gets new unlocks at 6 and 12 ranks in the core skill (Computers and Engineering). But they also cost a Resolve point, which the basic skills don’t.

For science officer: 6 ranks of Computers gets you Lock On, the reward being a blanket +2 to any gunners that turn; 12 gives you Improved Countermeasures, which gives a chance to force the enemy to roll twice and take the lower roll on gunnery checks.

For engineer: 6 gets you Overpower, which is a Divert you can apply to three systems at the same time, and 12 gets you Quick Fix, which removes ALL critical damage to a system for one hour.

Anyway, back to the action. I do think one “mistake” I made was that I should have been using the Science Officer ability Target System a lot more aggressively. Refresher: Target System increases the crit range from natural 20 to 19-20, but (more importantly) lets you choose the critted system, rather than rolling at random. Wasting two crits on the bad guy’s sensors was a tough way to learn the lesson, but I think hitting his engines to slow him down or weakening his weapons would’ve been far more worthwhile than those few rounds Tuttle jumped on a gun in the mid-fight. Especially since it was a front-facing gun, we could only fire if we won initiative.

I also probably should’ve read the rules on gunnery a little closer. I didn’t realize it took RANKS of Piloting, so I didn’t think to take a level of Piloting at Level 2. I have to think about whether that impacts my character build going forward – on one hand, it might be worth pushing more into Piloting to keep up as a gunner; on the other hand, it wouldn’t go up THAT much faster than Base Attack Bonus, so maybe it’s not an urgent need compared to other skills I could be taking.

So anyway… we won, and at a broad-strokes level, I don’t really feel like we were ever really in that much danger in that encounter – I assume that was by design, since this is going to be a lot of players’ first exposure to ship combat, but it felt like a “get your feet wet” encounter where things were meant to be stacked in the party’s favor. Yeah, the other ship was faster than us, and that was a little annoying, but it didn’t hit very hard, and the Hippo’s 360-degree turret kept us in the fight every round. It really felt like he would’ve had to hit a LOT of lucky rolls to put us in any real danger. Still, even lacking much real danger, it was still fun, and I look forward to the next time we get to do it.

Next up: quarantined derelict spaceship where one of the airlocks was open to space. There can’t possibly be anything bad aboard, right? (Let’s be honest… we all grew up with Alien as a formative experience… I’m waiting for the arrival of face-huggers until proven otherwise.)

Anyhow, that was our first taste of space combat. I hope it wasn’t too hard to follow and you guys found it interesting. Feel free to drop us a line with any questions or comments, and we’ll see you next week on board the Nostromo… err… Arceon.

011: Spaceship!

Starfinder Space Combat

The boys board the Hippocampus and leave the safety of Absalom Station for open space. At first, the biggest danger confronting the team is Rusty’s heavy-handed leadership style might cause a mutiny. But then, actual danger appears in the form of a one-man enemy fighter. Lock phasers on target, charge techno-babble emitters – it’s time to kick the tires on Starfinder’s spaceship combat!

Join the Roll For Combat crew as they stumble their way through life and death with a Starfinder starship combat tutorial. Will they live, die, or will Rusty get thrown out an airlock? Find out this week!

Also this week, GM Stephen discusses how far one should “dumb down” powerful bad guys – should every combat be an epic life and death battle, or can some of them just be a simple shootout?

Plus, this is the week we announce the grand prize winners for the $1000 “Big Podcast Launch Giveaway”! Listen to find out if you won… and even if you didn’t we’ll have a brand new contest starting next week! And don’t forget to become a supporter of the podcast at our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/rollforcombat where you can help us while unlocking fun exclusive rewards for yourself!