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Talking Combat 126: The Rogue Goes Rogue

Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 126: Ramming Speed!

OK, so it turns out the secret to making ship combat in Starfinder entertaining is to just give your players command of a Level 20 capital ship and just let them leave smoking wreckage where their enemies used to be. WHO KNEW?

Seriously, I didn’t know while we were fighting, but I went back and looked at the stats of those ships (or similar) after the combat was over, and those two escort cruisers pretty much had NO chance. (Even before Seth decided to just go ahead and ram them.) We had something like 1000 hull points and they were just plinking away, 40 or 50 points at a time. Meanwhile, our main gun was putting out anywhere up to 400, 500 points if we got good rolls, and seemed to be settling in the 300s on average. And once the boss left, we could afford to put 2 or 3 people on guns at the same time.

There’s a little suspension of disbelief as far as getting the guns to shoot at other Corpse Fleet ships, but I suppose there are two rationalizations there. First, they shot at us first. Kinda easy to justify shooting BACK at somebody that already shot at you. But also, we’re (ironically) so far in the future that it’s probably all computerized – there’s probably no window they looking out to see who they’re firing at; they probably just respond to blips on the screen. The bridge tells them to shoot at the target at bearing 027-mark-351 and they do it. I suppose you could spend an hour in this rabbit-hole if you really wanted to – Do they have transponders on their ships? What’s the chain of command if Gunner’s Mate Third Class Poplinski realizes we’re shooting at friendlies?  But screw it. “Fog of war” it shall be.

Meanwhile, the boss makes a token effort to make a nuisance of himself, but doesn’t ever come out from behind his force wall, and then leaves. I suspect that means he’s getting low on spells, and almost certainly that he can’t go invisible again. On the one hand, it’s a little less than satisfying because I’m a completionist and really want to finish the job. On the other hand, a caster who is pretty much out of spells really might not want to go toe-to-toe with a party of five, even if one of them is teetering on death’s door. I suppose there’s still a chance he’s off getting reinforcements, or possibly that he’ll ambush us as we try to get off the ship, but for now… take the “W”, I guess. (It also sets up the possibility we’ll have an honest-to-God nemesis if he and us both escape. Just like Darth Vader’s TIE fighter flopping away into space at the end of Star Wars!)

And then we get to the heart of this episode, where Seth goes loose cannon on us.

Here’s my dilemma. Keep in mind, this isn’t “anger”… more like “70% amused, with a 30% undercurrent of frustration”.

On one hand, I absolutely respect that it made for a big, fun storytelling moment for Seth to ram the enemy ship and that in general, he’s going all-out for the event horizon to get us there quickly. We’re in the home stretch – swing for the fences! And I can’t really complain about him carrying forward the same plan I started without asking anyone’s permission – it was my idea to start moving the ship to get the boss to focus on me in the first place. On the other hand, the minute the boss left the bridge, the situation was at least temporarily under control – we’d already established that the escort ships weren’t going to be much of a threat – and a little bit of a pause to catch our collective breath would’ve probably been wise. Slow down… do a circle and go back around… whatever.

Instead, Seth goes ahead and rams the ship. It certainly solves the ship combat problem; I’ll give it that. But now we have a running clock to get off the ship, one party member who has to be dragged because he’s ping-ponging back and forth at death’s door, weird shifting gravity effects, and we don’t REALLY know for certain those doors at the “north” end of the bridge get us off the ship… we’re just kind of assuming that to be the case. Don’t get me wrong… it makes GREAT listening. But for someone like me who likes to take time to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, it’s a little bit outside my comfort zone.

I do feel like Steve is the great equalizer here. I think Steve has a pretty good Spider-Sense for that sweet spot where he still indulges players’ choices up to a point, but he also won’t totally let one player take over the game and “ruin” it for everyone else. Let’s say something Seth was going to do would kill us outright. The ship blows up, we lose. That would pretty much flush two years of gaming down the drain, and deep down, I don’t think Steve would let that happen. I don’t feel like he would hard-veto it unless there was no other way: it’s more likely he’d soft-veto it by tweaking the script on the fly and giving the rest of us a chance to mitigate the situation. Don’t get me wrong: Steve is willing to let the group die if we AS A GROUP do something hideously stupid. But if one player goes rogue, I think Steve’s willing to covertly or overtly reel it back in if needed.

Based on his show notes, it doesn’t sound like his response to Seth’s actions was anything that drastic, though. If anything, he just moved up some things that were going to happen later to create some additional drama, and it sounds like we’re still basically in command of our own destinies here; we just have to get the heck off this ship.

Toward the end of the session, we catch a bit of a break as the Rewire Flesh effect on Akiro is set to expire; next time he drops will hopefully be the last time. He’ll still be at risk if we have to deal with more potential falling damage from the gravity shifts, but he has his flight spell to mitigate some most of that. Not gonna lie – I know we do a certain amount of messing with each other, but I was genuinely a little annoyed that Bob and John weren’t giving me a little more help getting Akiro back on his feet. Two main things: a) this would go faster if I stabilized him and a second person poured a healing serum into him and b) unless we get lucky with low or zero-G, there’s pretty much no way I’m going to be dragging him myself. You could argue a little selfishness is in-character for Rusty, but Mo is usually more helpful than that.

And that’s where we leave things for next time… it’s really just a race to get off the ship before big objects go BOOM. Do we make it? I guess you’ll have to tune in next time. Though, I mean, who’s gonna listen to a podcast for two years and then bail at the very final moments? So at the risk of being arrogant, we KNOW you’ll be back here next week… but thanks for listening all this time.