May 6, 2014
The Rush Of The Hyperdrive
Continuing our theme of Star Wars in celebration of May the Fourth, let’s look at one of the most iconic parts of the series: spaceships.
As if running normal encounters was not tricky enough, trying to capture the thrill of a starship battle in a tabletop role-playing game can be difficult to say the least. There are so many things that you have to consider. Distance, comparative elevation, speed, facing, all of these things factor in to star-ship battles in very significant ways. Ignoring these variables and trying to treat a vehicular space battle just like any other encounter may work for you, but in doing so you are losing what makes these encounters so spectacular. Even so, sometimes that may be the better option considering how complex some systems make this sort of battle.
Star Wars: Saga Edition has some fantastic rules for running this sort of encounter, as it should considering how important space battles are to the mythos of Star Wars. It does use miniatures, which some players and Gamemasters prefer to game without, but at least for these events I would highly recommend using them. The game does a good job at really making you feel like you are in a spaceship, firing laser beams at oncoming TIE fighters, or whatever it is you happen to be shooting at. Rather than introducing an entirely new system, it merely builds on top of its basic system for combat, giving you a few more options for what you are able to do and changing how a few of its base rules work. This makes outerspace battles feel a lot more fluid, which is always a goal of running any sort of conflict.
Another thing you have to consider in space battles, or really any sort of vehicular battle, is what each player will be doing. If every player gets to pilot their own X-Wing fighter, then this is not a concern. But what happens when your whole party is flying around in their own YT transport, like the Millennium Falcon? Who is piloting it? Who is manning the turrets? Who is running the sensor array? Yeah, that last role is an important one, but is not always the most fun to play. Many games make note of just how important it is for someone in a ship to be manning the sensor array, maintaining the shields, or doing other tasks on the ship that are just not as exciting as weaving through a tight corridor like Lando Calrissian or blasting enemy fighters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
When this situation arises, I always find it preferable to try and get players into whatever role they feel the most comfortable with/will have the most fun with and then fill all the other necessary roles with either helpful non-player characters or friendly droids. This way all the players are doing something and no one gets stuck rolling their Communications skill every turn just to try to give a bonus to those who are actually manning the turrets or making a Mechanics check every turn to try and restore five points to the deflector shields, unless that is something they actually want to be doing.
Vehicular battles of all sorts are always tricky, and outerspace battles are all the more so. Of all the games I have played, I find the vehicle rules found in Star Wars: Saga Edition, Shadowrun, and G.U.R.P.S. Vehicles to be some of the best.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
May the Force be with you.
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